Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
Nutrition incentive programs are proven to make healthy foods more affordable for low-income consumers and encourage healthy purchases, but there are obstacles to scaling current models.
For example, benefits under some programs can only be redeemed at certain places, such as farmers markets, which may not be useful to New Yorkers who typically purchase their food and other basic necessities at larger chain grocery stores.
NYHealth awarded Public Health Solutions a grant to help the New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy pilot an incentive program designed to be more accessible and to support long-term healthy shopping patterns. The pilot aimed to make it easier for residents to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating local supermarkets using a weekly discount card.
This NYHealth issue brief explores the implementation of and outcomes from the pilot, including changes in food security; patterns in produce purchase and consumption; and barriers to participation for residents and vendors. Although the pilot was partially successful in some neighborhoods, it ultimately did not show a significant change in the consumption of healthy foods and reduction of food insecurity among most of the participants. Its findings are nonetheless important and lessons learned should be considered in any future food access program. Recommendations for improvement include:
- Community members must have a prominent role in designing programs that are intended to improve healthy food access. Residents should be consulted as to where they do most of their shopping, with more specific questions asked such as where they do their produce shopping and why, and if they use different grocery stores to purchase different types of items (e.g., meat vs. produce).
- Nutrition incentive programs should be designed to be easily understood and used by both consumers and retailers.
- A robust recruitment and participation strategy needs to be in place—and one that reflects the needs and wants of the community.
Learn more about other nutrition incentive programs in New York State and how to make it easier for both New Yorkers and vendors/food producers to participate in these programs.