One of our Nation’s most pressing health challenges today is obesity with one in three children in America either overweight or obese. Low-income individuals are particularly at-risk. That’s why First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move! The campaign mobilizes the combined resources of the federal government, state and local governments, foundations, business and nonprofit organizations to help solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight and live healthier lives.
The recently announced Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) in Massachusetts will empower low-income Americans to eat more nutritious food and has the potential to strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program that serves as a critical safety net to the most vulnerable in our society.
The Food and Nutrition Service and First Lady Obama believe increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially in the place of higher calorie foods, can help move America towards healthier lifestyles and a healthier future. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized $20 million for pilot projects to evaluate health and nutrition promotion in the SNAP. Through HIP, FNS will be able to determine if incentives provided to recipients at the point-of-sale increase the purchase of fruits, vegetables or other healthful foods among SNAP participants.
The evaluation of this pilot, still in the early development stages, will offer solid evidence on whether a financial incentive can influence fruit and vegetable purchases and consumption. The Healthy Incentives Pilot will enroll 7,500 randomly selected SNAP households to receive incentives. For every dollar participants spend on fruits and vegetables using their SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, 30 cents will be added to their benefit balance – thus cutting the cost of fruits and vegetables by almost one-third.
Hampden County, Massachusetts was chosen to be the first county in America to use the HIP. Massachusetts was selected competitively due to its broad pilot proposal that included very thorough and strong design, implementation, staffing and management plans. Hampden County is a mix of 27 urban, rural, and suburban cities with a total of 50,000 SNAP households. The majority of recipients are concentrated in the areas of Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee. Massachusetts will begin operating the pilot in the fall of 2011.