Advancing Technology to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
September 28, 2023
Outside New York State
For families with low income, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, but most SNAP participants still spend more than one-third of their income on food and forgo fresh fruits and vegetables.
The resulting nutrition insecurity leads to poorer health and an increased risk of diet-related diseases. To address this need, nutrition incentive programs like Double Up Food Bucks aim to encourage SNAP participants to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables by providing matching dollars, vouchers, or discounts to use at a range of retailers. Similarly, produce prescription programs—which can be filled and used at grocery stores or farmers markets—provide incentives for low-income patients with diet-related diseases to purchase fruits and vegetables. While these programs have broad support, the technology to allow seamless transactions at the point of sale (i.e., the electronic system that accepts and processes payment at the register) has proven difficult, creating frustration and perpetuating stigma. Retailers and programs need an improved point-of-sale system for processing nutrition incentives that allows cashiers to simply process benefits like a single credit card, which would increase transaction speed, streamline reporting, and reduce stigma. In 2023, NYHealth awarded Fair Food Network a grant to address technology barriers that limit the widespread adoption and redemption of nutrition incentives and produce prescription programs that support the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers.
Under this grant, Fair Food Network will build the technology requirements for a scalable and low-cost transaction technology that allows for seamless participation by both retailers and shoppers. Its lead project partner, the National Grocers Association, represents independent grocery retailers nationwide and will help mobilize industry relationships and connections. Fair Food Network will establish a stakeholder workgroup that includes Field & Fork Network, which has scaled the Double Up Food Bucks Program across the State; the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Groceries to Go produce prescription program; and other members like technology developers, grocery retail and farmers market associations, store managers, cashiers, and shoppers. The workgroup will identify clear technical requirements for efficient nutrition incentive transactions. Additionally, to make a business case for technology companies, Fair Food Network will emphasize that there is the demand from the field for this innovation and that both developers and grocers can acquire more revenue if they invest in the recommended solutions. Lastly, Fair Food Network will leverage its extensive network of industry relationships to secure investment from point-of-sale technology companies.