SNAP: Healthy Incentives Pilot Roundtable Questions
Pilot Questions: Features to Promote Healthy Food Choices
1. What are the pro/cons of providing incentives for the purchase of all fruits and vegetables versus some subset of them, e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables? If the pilot rewards the purchase of all fruits and vegetables, are there easy- to-apply rules of thumb for distinguishing between marginal products, such as veggie chips and frozen fruit bars?
2. Is there a possibility that providing information about the availability of a financial incentive for food categories can be construed as a promotion for product types? How can this be avoided?
3. How important is it to add additional forms of fruit and vegetable promotion or education to the financial incentive? Are there any promotions that reach a large number of people and are compatible with point-of-purchase incentives that you know to be effective?
4. FNS recognizes that it may take some time to influence household purchase patterns. How many months should we plan for the pilot to run in order to observe a change in behavior? Is there any basis to expect that pilot impacts will continue after the pilot ends – that is; are behavior changes likely to be sustained in the absence of the incentive?
5. What level or levels of financial incentive are likely to lead to measurable change in foods purchased? How would timing of delivery of incentives influence usage (i.e., incentive provided at time of purchase versus incentive earned for future use)?
6. What steps need to be taken to ensure that SNAP recipients know about the pilot? What are the potential barriers to pilot participation for SNAP recipients? How can these challenges be eliminated or minimized?
Pilot Questions: Evaluation Features
7. FNS is interested in measuring whether or not incentives increase household fruit and vegetable purchases or substitute for current purchases. That is, do SNAP households simply shift purchase habits – e.g., purchase fruits and vegetables with SNAP benefits and use their cash resources to buy other, possibly less healthful, foods? What data are available from stores (i.e., aggregate sales, individual purchase transactions) to answer this question? Will it be necessary to collect information directly from households to get the complete picture?
8. What do we know about the relationship between fruit and vegetable purchases and fruit and vegetable consumption? Is it reasonable to assume that increased purchases will result in additional consumption? If not, are there lower cost options for measuring household food consumption than the traditional food diaries or 24 hour recalls?
9. Farm Bill legislation specifies a rigorous evaluation design – preferably one where households or communities are randomly assigned to incentive and non-incentive conditions. What factors need to be considered when choosing between random assignment of households within a community versus random assignment of similar communities?
10. What are the pro/cons of testing the impacts of different incentive levels within a single pilot site versus multiple pilot sites?
Pilot Questions: System Features
11. What are the implications of choosing between an incentive that assumes the form of a discount available pre-purchase, a discount upon purchase of fruits or vegetables, or a post-purchase bonus?
12. While most SNAP benefits are redeemed through retailers with sophisticated information systems, many authorized stores do not have such capacity. Under what circumstances would it be possible to include the full range of store types in any locale?
13. EBT eliminated the need to process paper benefits. What are the key challenges associated with delivering an electronic incentive that is integrated with current state systems? What lessons have you learned about resolving such challenges? What is the minimum amount of time required to make the necessary system changes, test the process, and implement it? What are the cost implications?
14. Are there options outside the EBT system worth considering? What might they be? For example, would relying on a separate debit card offer any advantages? What would be the downsides or additional challenges with any other approach?
15. What are the threats to SNAP integrity that need to be addressed if the financial incentive pilot is integrated into EBT systems? How can these be reduced or eliminated? Do they suggest the need for new reporting requirements?
16. How can the incentive funding be clearly identified at the recipient, retailer and banking system level so that costs and benefits are clearly identified for key stakeholders?
The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.