Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture has selected Hampden County to conduct the first-ever Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) program. The HIP is an incentives based program aimed at empowering low-income Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The 2008 Farm Bill authorized $20 million to research whether incentives for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, will increase their purchase of healthy foods. Over the past few years, participation in SNAP has significantly increased in Massachusetts, with more than 740,000 individuals currently receiving nutritional benefits.
In May, both Kerry and Brown sent a letter to the USDA in support of Hampden County's bid, saying it "directly relates to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance's (DTA) mission to assist low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs, increase their incomes and improve their quality of life."
"Hampden County's unique makeup of urban, suburban, and rural communities plus low-income areas makes it the perfect place to test these incentives rather than a single city," said Senator Kerry. "Now Massachusetts can showcase SNAP as an effective economic development tool, and continue to set the national standard for providing access to healthy, affordable foods."
"This recession has forced too many families to sacrifice basic nutrition in order to fill up the car with gas or pay the household bills," said Senator Brown. "This program is a win for Massachusetts families looking to put good food on the table and a win for the Massachusetts economy as well."
Massachusetts was selected competitively based on its comprehensive pilot proposal that included very thorough and strong design, implementation, staffing and management plans. Hampden County has a total of 50,000 SNAP households, with a majority of recipients in Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee.
SNAP provides more than just nutritious foods to Massachusetts families in need -- it is also an important asset to the state's economy. Every SNAP dollar spent generates nearly double in economic activity. This means the $1.2 billion issued annually in SNAP equates to $2.4 billion in local production, sales and jobs for cities and towns in the Commonwealth.
Massachusetts will begin operating the Healthy Incentives Pilot in the fall of 2011.