“Making a Dollar and Making a Difference”

August 24, 2020

By Ted Mason, NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center

My friend and colleague Jimmy Wright, owner of Wright’s Market in Opelika, AL, keeps reminding me and other retailers there is a way for retailers to “Make a dollar and make a difference” by offering SNAP beneficiaries a produce incentive program.

Jimmy has been offering a Double Up Food Bucks program to his SNAP customers for two years and has experienced the benefits below:

  • Increased fresh produce sales.
  • Increased communication and connection with SNAP shoppers.
  • Increased positive store relationship with his community.

Jimmy is part of a team that can help you explore what SNAP produce incentives are and how you may be able to establish a program for your store. The National Grocers Association Technical Assistance Center (NGAF TAC) is available to consult with retailers on how to establish a program and there is no cost or NGA membership required for use of our services.

What Are SNAP Produce Incentives?
Basically, funding from past U.S. Congressional farm legislation includes money to establish SNAP produce incentive programs at retail food stores and farmers markets. These programs are designed to incentivize SNAP clients to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets. Retailers offer discounts on qualifying fresh fruits and vegetables to SNAP shoppers and the discounts redeemed are then fully reimbursed to the retailers. In these increasingly challenging economic times, SNAP produce incentives also help extend the amount of food available to SNAP clients.

How incentive programs are implemented vary across the country and three examples are provided below.

  • Percentage discounts, sometimes up to 50%, provided during the SNAP transaction on qualifying produce items.
  • Discount coupons printed upon completion of a qualifying SNAP transaction redeemable for a future purchase of qualifying fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Discounts for qualifying produce purchases may be issued and redeemed as part of store loyalty programs.

How Do I Start a SNAP Incentives Program?
Funding for SNAP produce incentive programs must be provided by a separate non-profit organization – often called a grantee. Food banks, hunger relief organizations and health systems are a few of the organizations receiving grants from the congressional funding. Individual states may also provide funding to partner with retailers. In Jimmy’s case, a non-profit called Fair Food Network, provides funding for the discounts Jimmy provides to SNAP shoppers.

Below are the basic steps for establishing a program.

  • Locate a non-profit grantee currently providing funding for a SNAP incentive program. Some agencies are local, and others may be regional or national. The NGAF TAC is a resource for helping you locate a grantee.
  • Work with grantee to design a SNAP produce incentive program for your store. Some grantees may have standardized programs for all their participating retailers while other grantees may be able to work with you to design a program unique for your store. The grantees will require certain reporting capabilities from retailers to maintain program financial integrity.
  • Key to your store incentive program design is the ability of your POS system to conduct an incentive transaction. While “newer” POS systems may already include incentive transaction capabilities, older systems may require updates or workarounds in order to handle incentive transactions. Third party solution providers are also emerging to provide ways to handle these transactions. The NGAF TAC is a resource for helping you determine solutions for efficiently processing incentive transactions at the POS.

Double Up Food Bucks are now accepted at approximately 100 grocery stores in Michigan. Other states also have various SNAP incentive programs in operation or in startup mode, but there are challenges for adding retailers to the program. The NGAF TAC was specifically created in partnership with the Nutrition Incentive Hub* to help address the challenges grocers and supermarket operators face in establishing programs.

  • The availability of grants is not uniform across the country. The process for non-profits to obtain grant funding is time consuming and the window for grant application is only once per year. While retailers may wish to start a program, there are sometimes challenges finding a funding source.
  • The ideal SNAP incentive POS transaction is one that:
    • Is quick and efficient at the checkout.
    • Does not require cashier intervention at issuance or redemption of the incentives.
    • Automatically recognizes a SNAP transaction.
    • Provides reporting requirements for grantee/retailer to maintain financial integrity.
  • Older POS systems may be incapable of efficiently conducting SNAP incentive transactions or the costs to update systems may be too high. Some third-party solution providers may be able to help.

Jimmy has set an outstanding example for single store operators across the country on how to identify and work with a grantee, work with his POS provider to create a process for incentive transaction processing and most importantly, help SNAP clients in his community. Larger chain retailers are also having success with implementations across the country.

If you are interested in following Jimmy’s lead and learning how your store can “make a dollar and make a difference”, contact us – we are ready to help!

Email us at incentives@nationalgrocers.org

* The NGA TA Center addresses the challenges grocers and supermarket operators face in establishing nutrition incentive programs and is a proud partner of the Nutrition Incentive Hub. The Hub, funded through a cooperative agreement from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is a new national resource that provides training, technical assistance, reporting, and evaluation for those working to launch or expand SNAP incentives or produce prescription programs. The Hub is led by Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in partnership with Fair Food Network along with a coalition of evaluators, researchers, practitioners, and grocery and farmers market experts from across the country dedicated to strengthening and uniting the best thinking in the field to increase access to affordable, healthy food to those who need it most.