By Patrick Jones, Project Assistant, National Grocers Association Technical Assistance Center
At this point you have likely heard a good deal about nutrition incentive (NI) programs. You know that, at heart, they seek to incentivize people to make better nutrition and health decisions. But what are the different types of nutrition incentive programs? We’re going to try and explain the various programs and let you know how they are the same and how they are different.
“Nutrition incentive program” is an overarching term for any program that seeks to provide extra food dollars to help food insecure individuals purchase more fruits and vegetables. To break it down further, NI programs are generally divided into two separate subcategories: SNAP Incentive (SI’s) programs and Produce Prescriptions (PRx) programs. While both programs seek to provide (essentially) the same health benefits for their clientele, their design and implementation are entirely different.
SNAP Incentive programs link extra produce dollars to purchases made with the shopper’s SNAP benefits while produce prescriptions are issued by healthcare providers to low-income patients whose health conditions could be improved by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP Incentives might work to improve the health of the SNAP shopper, but no healthcare entity is necessary to implement a program. Conversely, PRx programs require healthcare entities to “prescribe” certain foods and while the patient might be eligible for SNAP benefits, being enrolled in the SNAP program, it is not a prerequisite for participation.
PRx programs differ from SI programs in several key ways when it comes to issuance, redemption, and in-store POS system methodologies to conduct the transaction at the checkout stand. Participants do not have to make a qualifying purchase to earn the incentive, as they do with SI programs. Prescriptions are issued by health professionals in standard dollar amounts at regular intervals, and patients are enrolled for a several months or up to one year. Less is asked of a retailer’s POS system with PRx programs: the system does not need to recognize the tender used, calculate the benefit earned based on qualifying purchases, or issue the benefit as a discount, digital or paper coupon. This makes the transaction process significantly easier.
In an effort to break down the key differences between the two programs further, we have created a graphic that highlights some of the primary distinctions that make PRX and SI’s unique:
As a retailer, it is important to note that while you might wish to run one program or the other, you must work with a non-profit or government entity that applies for and wins a grant award. So the particular type of program is determined by the entity applying. Currently there are more functioning SI programs than there are PRx programs through GusNIP with a significant concentration of funding focused on SI’s. This may change as the world of nutrition incentives continues to open up. If you have a non-profit in mind with a mission statement that might align with your vision, you can also develop a partnership ahead of time and push for them to focus on one program or the other as has happened in some cases across the U.S.
*Graphic provided by the Nutrition Incentive Hub
If you’re interested in learning more about the programs in your area the NGAF TA Center can help you establish the connections necessary and answer any questions you may have in bringing your store’s nutrition incentive mission to life. Please visit our website at https://www.ngaftacenter.org/ and/or reach out to the team via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org