Nutrition Incentives: What You Need to Know

May 20, 2021

By Tim O’Connor, Project Consultant, NGAF TA Center

Nutrition incentives: Have you seen them in your community? Have you heard about them?

If you haven’t, you will.

Nutrition incentives are here and are growing. They come with lots of names: GusNIP, SNAP incentives, produce prescription programs, fruit and vegetable programs, and Food-As-Medicine. They are sponsored and run by local community agencies, state government agencies, health care organizations, even health insurance providers. Financing for incentives can come from the government, companies like insurance providers, foundations and other sources.

What are they all about? The programs subsidize the purchase of healthy foods in an effort to improve the dietary habits and choices of customers. Some of the programs have a secondary goal, to help local agriculture producers by only subsidizing foods that are produced locally or regionally.

How do they work?  There are variations from program to program, but from a store’s point of view they tend to operate in just two ways. People who receive the incentives can simply get a discount for eligible foods at the point of purchase – 50% off produce, for example. The other way you will see this is that people who buy particular goods get coupons – either paper or electronic – that they can redeem for eligible products during a future shopping visit.

Incentives are aimed at improving the health of people who are experiencing food insecurity.  In almost all of the programs, the people who receive the incentives are SNAP recipients.

Should you care? Yes! Nationally, there are few programs providing incentives and they are not large; many serve only some communities within a state, not the whole state.  But the number and size of the programs, especially those that are funded by the government, are growing each year. Over time, it is likely that nongovernment-funded programs will proliferate as well. They provide an important boost to the healthy purchases of SNAP customers and, in turn, may provide a boost to your sales.

So, back to the top. Nutrition incentives: If you have not seen them yet, you will. You should take a look at these programs and decide if you want to participate in them for the benefit of your community and your stores.

Do you want to help your customers who need help making healthy purchases? Do you want to see an increase in your produce sales?

If you want more information about these programs you can find out more from the National Grocers Association Foundation Technical Assistance Center. We can answer any questions you may have about how the programs work, where they are, how you can participate and what you would need to do to participate. Our help is free to you, just contact incentives@nationalgrocers.org.

*The NGAF 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 Nutrition Incentive Hub, funded through a cooperative agreement from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is a new resource that provides training, technical assistance, reporting, and evaluation for those working to launch or expand SNAP incentives or produce prescription programs. The Nutrition Incentive 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.