Fine Fare Supermarkets has partnered with a technology company and New York City government agencies on a new program that gives rewards for healthy food purchases by recipients of federal food benefits.
The program, known as "Get the Good Stuff," is a collaboration between the independent retailer, technology company STCR and the Fund for Public Health in New York City on behalf of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Through this initiative, customers who participate in SNAP and use their benefits to purchase eligible fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits, vegetables and beans will receive additional money to buy more eligible fruits, vegetables and beans. For each dollar spent using SNAP benefits on eligible produce and beans, customers will receive an additional dollar, allowing them to purchase up to $50 more in produce per day.
According to a national study conducted by The Food Trust and research firm PolicyLink, low-income ZIP codes have 25% fewer chain supermarkets and 1.3 times as many convenience stores as compared to middle-income ZIP codes. For busy families with few resources, including a lack of transportation options, this lack of access is a major detractor to seeking out healthy foods and fresh produce. Get the Good Stuff is an effort to combat the problem.
The Fine Fare locations in the Bronx and Jamaica, N.Y., are the first grocery stores to participate. Fine Fare worked with STCR to develop the loyalty program by mapping eligible items into the system, setting requirements and creating reports to track progress in order to get the initiative off the ground.
Funding for the program is approved through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the initial trial will run through April 30, but will likely continue through April 20, 2021. The Fund for Public Health said it was looking for additional stores to participate and would work with the Department of Health to provide assistance with program implementation.
In order to offer the initiative, stores must meet the following criteria:
- Be a food retailer with a maximum of 50,000 square feet of retail space.
- Be located in an NYC ZIP code, where more than 20% of the population lives below the federal poverty level as measured by the 2011-2015 American Community Survey.
- Be authorized to accept SNAP, share the store’s SNAP authorization number for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to share with the USDA, and use electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system equipment and transaction services.
- Demonstrate at least $1 million in SNAP sales for the prior year.
- Have at least 50% of retail space for food products intended for home preparation as compared to prepared foods.
- Sell a variety of fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils without added salt, sugar, fat or oil.
- Do not sell or market tobacco products.
- Use an electronic point-of-sale system to process and record customer transactions; have the capacity to adapt a POS system to identify items that are eligible for incentives; and use customer loyalty technology to distribute and redeem fruit and vegetable incentives.
- Be willing to explore opportunities to procure locally grown produce to sell at the store.
Participating stores will not only help provide more access to healthy food but also may benefit from new customers and more sales of fruits and vegetables.