It’s HIP to be healthy! The new Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) encourages the purchase of fresh food while supporting farms and keeping money in the local economy.
To increase access to local foods for the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households who rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to feed their families each month, HIP provides a dollar-for-dollar match on purchases of fruits and vegetables made at farmers’ markets, farm stands, mobile markets and community-supported agriculture programs. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is the nutrition program for families and individuals thatmeet certain income and resource guidelines. SNAP benefits are accessed with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that operates like an ATM card.
To utilize the Healthy Incentives Program, customers purchase fruits or vegetables at participating vendors using their EBT card. For every dollar spent on produce, the customer receives a dollar match. The match is instantly credited to the customer’s SNAP account. For example, if a SNAP recipient buys a head of broccoli at a farm stand for $3, another $3 will automatically be added to their account. Incentive earnings are immediately accessible via the customer’s EBT card and can be used right away to make additional purchases from a farmer or later at a grocery store. Depending on household size, monthly incentives can range from $40 to $80.
New Bedford Farmers Market Director Director Kim Ferreira notes, “By far, the newest addition to this year’s market is the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). This program provides SNAP recipients with greater flexibility and incentive to use their often limited SNAP dollars to purchase fresh produce, and subsequently be rewarded with additional SNAP dollars to purchase other items.”
Designed not only to encourage the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, HIP also aims to bring new customers and increased sales to local farmers throughout the Commonwealth. Cindy Prentice, Executive Director of Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset notes, “We are very happy to apply for participation in the new SNAP/ HIP program for use at our farm stand and at the Cohasset Farmers’ Market. How wonderful to offer a program where qualifying households will earn an incentive to purchase fruits and vegetables. We hope to provide organic food to all!”
After a successful pilot, the Healthy Incentives Program launched on April 1, 2017 and is off to a great start. Funded through a $3.4 million USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant (FINI), HIP will be in effect statewide through 2020. “We’re happy to say that we’ve seen a lot of farmers signing up for the equipment to accept SNAP and participate in the Healthy Incentives Program,” affirms Kendra Murray, Program & Marketing Director for the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) and HIP regional partner representative. As the growing season continues Murray anticipates word to spread, resulting in increased participation from both customers and farmers.
It’s HIP to be healthy!
Want more info?
For a regularly updated list of participating farms, markets, other retailers, and to sign-up for the program:
Elle Maynard happily calls the South Shore home—especially in the glorious summer months! On Saturday mornings she can often be found at her favorite farmers’ market, or at the Holly Hill Farm stand.