The Food, Nutrition and Conservation Act of 2008 (also known as the Farm Bill) authorized funds to pilot test and rigorously evaluate the impact of financial incentives at the point-of-sale for the purchase of fruits, vegetables or other healthful foods on the diet quality of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) FNS refers to this effort as the Healthy Incentives Pilot or HIP. HIP operated for 14 months in Hampden County, MA.
The legislation authorizing HIP provides for an evaluation and required that “the independent evaluation…use rigorous methodologies, particularly random assignment…” To that end, a sample of about 2,500 SNAP households selected from the 7,500 participating in HIP were randomly assigned to an experimental group, while the same number of SNAP households not participating in HIP were randomly selected for the control group. Comparisons between these groups provide the basis for determining HIP’s impacts. This research design provides the rigor necessary to attribute any changes in fruit and vegetable consumption to the incentive.
Key evaluation objectives include:
- determine if the financial incentive provided by HIP increases the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed;
- identify the household characteristics and circumstances that influence any observed impact;
- describe the processes involved in implementing and operating HIP; and
- estimate the Federal, State and local administrative expenses and benefits.
Authoritatively addressing the evaluation objectives requires a relatively complex and intensive data collection plan. Detailed information on participant dietary intake is necessary to answer the main questions about impacts on food consumption. This information was collected on multiple occasions to assess early dietary changes after 4-6 months of HIP participation and again after 9-11 months of participation. In addition, interviews with SNAP staff, EBT vendors, food retailers and other pilot team members document the implementation experience, potentially different effects on each stakeholder group, and opinions about pilot operations.
Send questions about HIP to HIP@fns.usda.gov