On October 13, 2015, MPHA Executive Director Rebekah Gewirtz testified before the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities in support of S69, An Act establishing the healthy incentives program. The bill (sponsored by Senator Eileen Donoghue and Representative Aaron Vega) would establish the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) in Massachusetts to make it easier for food insecure families and individuals in MA to afford healthy food. As Rebekah stated in her testimony, the up $21/day that SNAP recipients receive helps to put food on the table but it remains difficult for families to choose healthy options because of cost and access. Food insecure families end up buying the higher calorie cheaper foods to keep their families fed.
HIP was piloted as a USDA funded project in Hampden County, Massachusetts between November 2011 and December 2012. When SNAP participants purchased targeted fruits and vegetables at participating retailers, they received 30 cents per dollar back onto their EBT cards. Participants in the program spent more SNAP benefits on fruits and vegetables. Researchers found that HIP participants had a 26% increase in fruit and vegetable consumption compared to those not receiving the benefit. The success of the pilot program illustrates that establishing HIP across the state will help make healthy food more available to those in need and can help prevent diet related disease.