Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the results of USDA's Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) and discussed additional steps USDA and its partners are taking to encourage recipients to purchase healthy foods using SNAP benefits.
Authorized by Congress through the 2008 Farm Bill, HIP tested the impact of incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among a small group of SNAP recipients in Hampden, Mass. The pilot determined that an ongoing investment of less than 15 cents per person per day may result in a 25 percent increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among adults. Adults receiving the HIP incentive consumed, on average, an ounce more fruits and vegetables per day than non-participants.
"Although healthy foods aren't necessarily more expensive, many low income people face time and resource challenges when it comes to putting healthy food on the table that can make less healthy options seem more appealing," said Vilsack. "The results of the Healthy Incentives Pilot demonstrate the clear impact that promoting nutritious food choices can have on improving the healthfulness of SNAP purchases."
Vilsack also highlighted ongoing public-private efforts that provide support and incentives to SNAP participants to purchase more healthy foods. He cited a pilot project in Minnesota that offers $5 coupons to SNAP households for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables and a pilot project in Michigan to make locally sourced produce available in corner grocery stores in metropolitan Detroit.
"Research to date shows that incentives can work, but we know that no single solution can solve the problems of poor diet and obesity among American children and families," said Vilsack. "That is why we are supporting a broad spectrum of SNAP-focused strategies that empower low-income families to purchase more healthy foods."
Providing science-based nutrition advice and expanding the availability of healthy food to all Americans is a major goal of USDA's nutrition assistance programs and this Administration. The strategies highlighted today complement other initiatives underway at USDA to promote healthy eating by all Americans, including:
- USDA recently published an interim final rule that supports our efforts, working with state partners, to implement effective nutrition education and obesity prevention interventions in SNAP.
- America's students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. USDA recently announced Smart Snacks in Schools, which sets healthy guidelines for all foods and beverages sold in school to ensure that students will be offered only healthier food options during the school day.
- USDA recently announced expanded eligibility for $4 million in grants to improve access to fresh produce and healthy foods for SNAP shoppers at America's farmers markets. By increasing the number of farmers markets that are able to accept SNAP benefits, we are encouraging SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase and prepare healthy foods for their families.
- USDA provides shopping strategies and meal planning advice to help families serve more nutritious meals affordably through its 10-Tips Nutrition Series and the Thrifty Food Plan.
- Through USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, the Department has worked to increase access to nutritious food through the development of strong local and regional food systems. The number of farmers markets increased by more than 67 percent in the last four years and there are now more than 220 regional food hubs in operation around the country.
- USDA's MyPlate symbol and the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov provide quick, easy reference tools to facilitate healthy eating on a budget for parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and communities. USDA's SuperTracker, a free online planning and tracking tool, helps more than two million Americans improve food choices, maintain a healthy weight, and track physical activity on a daily basis.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work together to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration -- the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.