Expanding SNAP Incentives In RI

RIPHI is working with several partners across the state to lower the cost of healthy food for families receiving SNAP. Learn more about SNAP and the Retail SNAP Incentive Program below.

SNAP incentives encourage shoppers to spend their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars on healthy produce by providing a financial incentive on fruits and vegetables. SNAP incentives not only improve healthy food access and nutrition among SNAP participants, they also support farmers and small businesses, and stimulate the local economy.

RIPHI’s Food on the Move mobile produce market and many farmers markets run by Farm Fresh RI currently offer SNAP incentives. These programs have demonstrated success in increasing fruit and vegetable purchases. However, over 80% of SNAP benefits are spent in superstores and supermarkets. This provided the rationale for the launch of an initiative led by RIPHI to expand SNAP incentives into retail stores in Rhode Island.

Several states across the country have piloted programs to expand SNAP incentives into retail stores. While each program is run differently, each offers an incentive to make fruits and vegetables more affordable to those with low incomes.

In all states where they have been implemented, the short and long-term benefits of SNAP incentives for residents, farmers, retailers, and the economy are clear.

Massachusetts’ Health Incentive Program (HIP) originally began in 2011 as a small-scale pilot program testing the impact of financial incentives on fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP participants in the retail setting.

The pilot results demonstrated a 26% increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among those who received the incentives. It also found that participants spent 11 percent more of their SNAP dollars on produce than those who did not receive any incentive.

Since then, HIP has increased its incentive to a dollar-for-dollar match for each SNAP dollar spent on fruits and vegetables. HIP also assessed the impact of SNAP incentives on retailers; over 90 percent of retailers reported no change in check-out time with very few reporting any issues during the pilot.

In California, a program called Double Up Food Bucks provides coupons matching the amount shoppers spend on produce to go towards their next fruit and vegetable purchase.

In 2017, Double Up helped 3,400 low-income families afford healthy food. Over 95% of customers agreed that their families were buying or eating more fruits and vegetables through Double Up. Further, participating stores saw a 5-12% increase in produce sales, a rate higher than the national inflation rate. This means a higher demand for produce from farmers and a boost in revenue for local grocers. Double Up California has plans to implement new technology and expand to more stores in order to magnify the program’s impact.

Complete Eats is an incentive program which operates at all Safeway store locations throughout Washington state. SNAP recipients who buy a minimum of $10 worth of produce can earn a coupon to spend on their next fruit and vegetable purchase.

Complete Eats, formerly known as Fresh Bucks, began in 2012 and grown significantly since then. Customers are given a wide selection of places to purchase their produce, with 65 retailers participating in the program. An investment from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax has allowed Complete Eats to provide close to $1.5 million worth of fruit and vegetable benefits to residents in 2018. In the same year, the program is estimated to have generated over $3 million in economic impact, a 272% increase from 2017.

An estimated 11% (47,000) of Rhode Island households are food insecure. This is a widespread problem which disproportionately affects Rhode Islanders on SNAP. It has negative consequences on these individuals’ diets and nutrition, and overall health and well-being. To learn more about food insecurity and Rhode Island’s efforts to address this issue, read the following data briefs:

Food Insecurity In Rhode Island

SNAP Makes A Difference For Rhode Island Families

The Retail SNAP Incentive Program

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