In New Mass. SNAP Program, Local Fruit And Veggies Come With A Refund
A new state program starting this month will offer a financial incentive to Massachusetts residents on limited incomes to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables.
People who receive SNAP dollars, which used to be called food stamps, can take advantage of the the HIP or Healthy Incentives Program. If someone buys produce using SNAP dollars at a farmers market, mobile market, farm stand or community supported farm, the amount of the purchase will be deposited right back into their SNAP account.
Winton Pitcoff is with the Massachusetts Food Systems Collaborative, which is helping to launch the program.
"We're really trying to incentivize both the purchasing of healthy foods for folks who tend to not have easy access to those foods, and to incentivize those purchases from local farms so that the money is staying in the local economy," Pitcoff said.
For instance, if a SNAP recipient buys a head of lettuce at a farm stand for $2, another $2 will automatically be added to their account. There's a limit of $40 to $80 per month depending on the size of the household. The consumer can use that money right away to buy something directly from a farmer or later at a grocery store.
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided $3.4 million in funding. But Pitcoff said the program costs double that. He said his group is seeking $800,000 from the state to buy EBT terminals for each farmer that wants to participate. The machines process the purchase and deposit the funds back into SNAP accounts. Each one costs $661 a year, including fees.
About two dozen farmers are already set up. But others like, Maureen Dempsey from Intervale Farm in Westhampton, are still waiting for terminals.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the cap on refunds ranges from $20 to $80 per household. The range is actually $40 to $80.