WASHINGTON, Mar. 15, 2017 - In the Northeast, a group called Farm Fresh Rhode Island is opening its own retail store and kitchen in Pawtucket, offering 40 percent bonuses on eligible purchases with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
Out West, in Concord, California, there’s a Freshest Cargo Mobile Market that brings healthy fruits and vegetables to some 4,000 individuals each week at different locations, matching part of the purchases of SNAP and WIC recipients up to $20 a week.
And in Roanoke, Virginia, a program called the Local Environmental Agricultural Pilot is providing Medicaid patients with guided tours of two farmers markets, as well as $10 vouchers to buy vegetables.
These are just three of the nine initiatives that are being funded this year with Nutrition Incentive Innovation Grants administered by the national nonprofit Wholesome Wave with financing from Target and the Sampson Foundation.
“The grant program is designed to stimulate and support organizations that have partnered with Wholesome Wave to support access to affordable food,” Steven Farley, a senior program associate with the organization, said in a telephone interview. “We were looking for forward-looking ideas to see how they play out in the field.”
Wholesome Wave says it developed the grant program “to increase affordable access to healthy food for the families that need it most…. Because when people can afford produce, they buy it.” Outcomes include “real benefits for people in poverty, regional economies, the environment and public health.”
The grants went to members of Wholesome Wave’s National Nutrition Incentive Network, which is free to join and provides support to partners in 46 states and over 700 locations. Winners were chosen from a range of applications focused on piloting new approaches or scaling existing ones for increased impact, Farley said.
Gabrielle Langholtz, marketing director for Wholesome Wave, said this is the second year of the grant program, and she expects grant money will be available for a third year.
Meanwhile, some of the country’s biggest food retailers are also trying to encourage SNAP participants to buy more fruits and vegetables.
In late 2015, for example, Kroger launched a program called Fresh Savings at 12 stores in Tennessee and Mississippi that provides coupons for produce savings to SNAP participants. When SNAP shoppers spend $10 on produce, they receive a printed coupon for 50 percent off their next produce purchase, up to $10. Participants can earn two coupons each month.
Despite some low redemption rates, Jeff Stilgenbauer, manager of corporate government benefits and payments at Kroger, told Supermarket News that the company plans to expand the pilot to 26 stores by the end of 2017, and eventually expand it to the Cincinnati/Dayton market where the company is headquartered.