Massachusetts’ HIP Improves Access to Healthy Foods

October 4th, 2019 | News

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An evaluation of the first three years (April 2015–June 2018) of Massachusetts’s Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) indicated its reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and sustainability. HIP matches each Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollar spent on eligible fruits and vegetables at local agricultural retailers. To date, the state has allocated $14 million to the program.

HIP’s goal is to create a more vibrant and equitable food system for underserved communities across the state by improving accessibility to and affordability of healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. HIP requires the involvement of partners at the local, regional, and state levels, including government, farmers, and local agricultural retailers.

JSI interviewed retailers, collected client feedback, conducted surveys, calculated HIP purchases, earnings, redemptions, and more to understand HIP’s effects on participant access to healthy fruits and vegetables for the Evaluation of the Healthy Incentives Program. Our evaluation report offers insights into HIP’s success and the importance of continued support to ensure that it is sustained.

The following are among our findings from the program’s first 15 months of implementation.

  • Now that more than half of Massachusetts cities and towns have at least one HIP point of sale (in addition to supermarkets), 87% of SNAP households have improved access to fruits and vegetables.
  • As a result of the HIP points of sale, 9% of SNAP households were no longer in a healthy food desert, defined as an area in which more than 20% of the population lives in poverty and more than one mile from a supermarket.
  • Retailers also benefited from the HIP: almost one-quarter of HIP earnings were redeemed at participating HIP retailers, meaning that in addition to making nearly $4.7 million in HIP earnings, these local agricultural retailers made more than $1 million in HIP redemptions.

HIP not only improves SNAP clients’ access to local fresh fruits and vegetables; it also puts money into the local economy and brings a wide range of partners together in the process. Based on these findings, funding for HIP should continue to sustain and increase its efforts to build healthier communities throughout Massachusetts.

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