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SNAP healthy incentive programs encourage SNAP participants to purchase healthy foods by providing a coupon,
discount, gift card, bonus food item or extra funds.

Improving what we eat can significantly reduce diet-related chronic diseases and disparities. A key barrier to healthy eating is lack of access or enough money to buy nutritious food. Research shows that incentive programs are an effective way to promote healthy eating and improve nutrition security for more Americans.

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The White House National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health called on key partners help expand SNAP incentives:

  • SNAP-authorized retailers
  • State, local, and tribal governments
  • Non-profit and for-profit organizations

Together, we can bring more SNAP healthy incentive programs to more communities – making nutritious food more accessible and affordable. Check out the SNAP incentives infographic for more information.

What foods can be incentivized?

Retailers can offer incentives that apply to specific products or any combination of products as long as they fall within one of the food group categories and meet the specifications outlined below.

Food Group(s) Eligible Incentive Foods*

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Whole fruits and vegetables (including legumes)
  • 100% fruit and/or vegetable juice
  • Any variety of fresh, canned, dried, or frozen whole or cut fruits and vegetables without added sugars, fats, oils, or salt (i.e., sodium)
Dairy
  • All varieties of low-fat or non-fat liquid, dry, or evaporated pasteurized cow’s milk, without flavoring or sweeteners, including lactose-free and lactose-reduced products
  • Fortified soy beverages (soy milk)
  • Low-fat or non-fat fresh or frozen yogurt
  • Low-fat or non-fat buttermilk
  • Low-fat or non-fat kefir
  • Low-fat or non-fat cheese 

Note: Cream, butter, sour cream, and cream cheese are not included due to their low calcium content.

Whole Grains
  • Whole grains, such as amaranth, barley (not pearled), brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oats, quinoa, dark rye, and wild rice.
  • Whole-grain products with whole grain listed as the first ingredient (or the second ingredient after water), such as whole-grain cornmeal, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat chapati, whole-grain cereals, and whole-grain pasta.
Note: prepared foods (e.g. sandwiches, salad bars, etc.) and accessory foods (e.g., cookies, crackers, ice cream, etc.) are not eligible for SNAP incentives. See associated FNS policy memos for definitions of prepared and accessory foods.
How do SNAP recipients receive and use incentives?

Each SNAP healthy incentive program is different. Generally, a SNAP customer earns incentives, such as a coupon, discount at the point of purchase, or extra funds for SNAP purchases, when they purchase eligible incentive foods with their SNAP EBT card. They can then redeem the incentives to purchase more eligible incentive foods or other SNAP eligible foods.

What types of SNAP incentive programs exist?
Federally Funded 
  • Electronic Healthy Incentives Pilot (eHIP)
    • FNS announced the new eHIP project in January 2023. Interested states must apply by March 31, 2023.
    • FNS previously funded the SNAP Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP), which operated in Hampden County, Massachusetts from November 2011 through December 2012. HIP was a precursor to the Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentive grant program (FINI), which has since been renamed the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP).
  • Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP)
    • GusNIP is a competitive grant program administered by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
    • GusNIP grantees are authorized to provide fruit and vegetable incentives to SNAP recipients.
    • The GusNIP Nutrition Incentives Hub offers a wealth of information about nutrition incentive projects and includes grantee spotlight stories.
  • Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive (HFMI) projects
    • SNAP participants shopping at select grocery stores receive incentives for purchasing qualifying milk.
State or Local Government Funded  Incentives can be funded by state, local, and tribal governments that partner with SNAP-authorized retailers.
Privately Funded  SNAP-authorized retailers can independently fund incentive programs or non/for-profit organizations can fund incentives in partnership with stores.
Farmers Market  Farmers markets are authorized to provide incentives to SNAP recipients to make local foods more affordable and support farmers.
How do we start a SNAP incentive program?

The basic steps for starting a SNAP healthy incentive program are:

  1. Identify funding. Unless you are a federal grantee, you must identify state, local or private funding.
  2. Select SNAP-authorized retailers. Determine which stores will offer incentives.
  3. Choose your model. Decide how households will earn and redeem incentives.
  4. Request a waiver. The funding entity or store must get FNS approval to offer healthy incentives. Federal incentive grantees and farmers markets do not need a waiver.
  5. Train staff and program operators.
  6. Market and promote. Make sure all SNAP households have an equal opportunity to participate. Consider sharing information about incentives in multiple languages.
Do we need approval to operate a SNAP incentive program?

Yes. SNAP incentive projects must get FNS approval to waive the SNAP equal treatment provision before offering healthy incentives. The SNAP equal treatment provision requires SNAP recipients to be treated the same as other customers. The provision prohibits both negative treatment (such as discriminatory practices) and preferential treatment (such as incentive projects). Waiver requests are usually approved or denied within 45 days

The waiver can be requested by the retailer or funding entity. Incentive projects operating at multiple store locations only need one waiver for all locations. A single store may offer incentives funded by multiple sources, but if any portion is funded by a state or local government or private entity, they must first obtain a waiver from FNS. Exceptions, when a waiver is not required:

  • Farmers markets that independently fund incentives for their own market do not need to request a waiver.
  • Incentive projects that are part of one of the federally funded projects listed above, such as GusNIP or HFMI, do not need to request a waiver.
Do incentive programs work?

Check out the research:

Healthy Incentives Pilot Final Evaluation Report

  • HIP participants (respondents aged 16 and older) consumed almost 1/4 cup (26%) more fruits and vegetables per day than did non-participants.
  • HIP households spent more SNAP benefits on fruits and vegetables than non-HIP households in participating supermarkets and superstores – $12.05 versus $10.86 on average each month – an increase of $1.19 or 11%.
  • HIP households reported higher total spending on fruits and vegetables than non-HIP households

Evaluation of the Implementation of Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI): Final Report

  • The findings from year two show that participants redeemed more than $20 million dollars in nutrition incentives and produce prescriptions distributed by GusNIP and the program generated an economic impact of about $41 million dollars. In addition, participants reported greater fruit and vegetable intake and improvements in food security.

Farmers Market Incentive Provider Study

  • This study showed that SNAP redemptions and incentive use tended to grow the longer the incentive program was in operation. Newly SNAP-authorized farmers markets had lower median SNAP and incentive redemption than markets that had been SNAP-authorized for more than three years.
  Where are incentives offered?
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○ Stores: from small, local markets to large national chains
○ Farmers markets
○ Online SNAP retailers

  What are some types of incentives?
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○ Extra funds (e.g. "double bucks")
○ Percentage discount
○ Coupon for future purchases
○ Bonus food items

  What foods can be incentivized?
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○ Fruits
○ Vegetables
○ Dairy
○ Whole Grains