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USDA pilot project improve healthy eating among food stamp recipients

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthy Incentives Pilot, a program to test the impact of promoting fruit and vegetable purchases among some SNAP recipients in Hampden, Mass., found that spending less than 15 cents a person each day can result in a 25 percent increase in eating these healthier foods among adults.

SNAPAdults receiving the HIP incentive consumed, on average, an ounce more fruits and vegetables per day than those not participating.

The HIP pilot project was authorized by Congress under the 2008 Farm Bill.

Many low income people face time and resource challenges when it comes to putting healthy food on the table that can make less healthy options seem more appealing, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack said public-private efforts by others also are showing success: (1) a pilot project in Minnesota that offers $5 coupons to SNAP households for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, and (2) a pilot project in Michigan to make locally sourced produce available in corner grocery stores in metropolitan Detroit.

He said other initiatives underway by USDA to promote healthy eating by all American consumers, include:

  • USDA recently published an interim final rule that supports agency efforts, working with state partners, to carry out nutrition education and obesity prevention in SNAP.
  • USDA recently announced expanded eligibility for $4 million in grants to improve access to fresh produce and healthy foods for SNAP shoppers at America's farmers’ markets.
  • Through USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, the department has worked to increase access to nutritious food through the development of strong local and regional food systems. The number of farmers’ markets increased by more than 67 percent in the last four years.
  • USDA's MyPlate symbol and the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov provide information on healthy eating on a budget for parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, and communities. USDA's SuperTracker, an online planning and tracking tool, helps more than two million Americans improve food choices, maintain a healthy weight, and track physical activity every day.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a new name for the agency’s food stamp program, which was changed in 2008 to fight stigma.

Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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