Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Hampden County, Mass. To Conduct First Healthy Incentives Pilot

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.

3 Responses to “Hampden County, Mass. To Conduct First Healthy Incentives Pilot”

  1. Penny Bradford says:

    With approximately 30 million people utilizing food assistance per month, it is good to see programs in the works that can encourage families to increase their awareness of healthful decisions. I would like to see the Food and Nutrition Service make this a pilot program in other areas as well before they ever make decisions on if it works or not. More effort in long-term strategies needs to happen along-side HIP to make it work.

    The question alone, shouldn’t be, “Will this incentive promote people to purchase and eat more produce?” but add to that, “Will they continue to do so afterwards and buy less salty/sugary snacks?” Hopefully the math will work out, and the fruits and vegetables will be eaten more often. I do believe the cost of fruits and vegetables are in direct correlation with people, on a tight budget, choosing to purchase less expensive junk food.

    Next, we can hope that there are incentives to help those that are purchasing more fresh produce to learn how to “put it away” for the winter. We know produce will be available in the winter, but trucked in isn’t part of the plan to “buy local” and sustaining your farmers (KYFKYF). If we go deeper with this, then these families would be given an opportunity to participate in workshops dealing with; purchasing, canning, drying, storing in general, along with preparing meals with produce that can be frozen if needed to ensure the less waste. Our society is not stupid, but grocery store incentives to buy already prepared, packaged foods make it easier to be ignorant.

    How many young parents have learned methods to preserve foods long term? Of course one other reason would be time. How do busy families work these strategies, to eat healthier consistently, into their schedules to reap the benefits? I think we need to involve grocery stores in this initiative by turning their produce departments into a classroom of sorts, offering lessons of preparation and preservation.

    Once again, if we go deeper we will see a much larger impact on the outcome. On that note, realizing people feel most comfortable in their homes and don’t always bring home what they learned, and taking the community approach of “It takes a whole village to raise a child” the promotion of in-home preservation parties with friends and families would be very beneficial.

  2. junk food places says:

    With approximately 30 million people utilizing food assistance per month, it is good to see programs in the works that can encourage families to increase their awareness of healthful decisions. I would like to see the Food and Nutrition Service make this a pilot program in other areas as well before they ever make decisions on if it works or not. More effort in long-term strategies needs to happen along-side HIP to make it work.

    The question alone, shouldn’t be, “Will this incentive promote people to purchase and eat more produce?” but add to that, “Will they continue to do so afterwards and buy less salty/sugary snacks?” Hopefully the math will work out, and the fruits and vegetables will be eaten more often. I do believe the cost of fruits and vegetables are in direct correlation with people, on a tight budget, choosing to purchase less expensive junk food.

    Next, we can hope that there are incentives to help those that are purchasing more fresh produce to learn how to “put it away” for the winter. We know produce will be available in the winter, but trucked in isn’t part of the plan to “buy local” and sustaining your farmers (KYFKYF). If we go deeper with this, then these families would be given an opportunity to participate in workshops dealing with; purchasing, canning, drying, storing in general, along with preparing meals with produce that can be frozen if needed to ensure the less waste. Our society is not stupid, but grocery store incentives to buy already prepared, packaged foods make it easier to be ignorant.

    How many young parents have learned methods to preserve foods long term? Of course one other reason would be time. How do busy families work these strategies, to eat healthier consistently, into their schedules to reap the benefits? I think we need to involve grocery stores in this initiative by turning their produce departments into a classroom of sorts, offering lessons of preparation and preservation.

    Once again, if we go deeper we will see a much larger impact on the outcome. On that note, realizing people feel most comfortable in their homes and don’t always bring home what they learned, and taking the community approach of “It takes a whole village to raise a child” the promotion of in-home preservation parties with friends and families would be very beneficial.

  3. Penny Bradford says:

    junk food places, Please delete your post, with my comment on it.

    Thank you

Leave a Reply