SNAP incentives Double Up on retail

October 2, 2017

Source: Produce Retailer
Author: Pamela Riemenschneider

The Double Up Food Bucks SNAP incentive program is about to get a big boost. Started by the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Fair Food Network, the program largely focused on farmers markets until 2014, when it started a retail pilot at a SpartanNash affiliate in Detroit. Since then, retail presence has expanded to 13 states and more than 175 grocery locations.

Now, thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Initiative, the program hopes tech innovation will help it broaden its reach.

Double Up Food Bucks incentivizes produce purchases made by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants by “doubling up” their dollars spent on produce.

For example, if a SNAP buyer at a Family Fare store in Grand Rapids grabs a 3-pound bag of  apples, they get a matching $3 to buy more fresh produce, up to $20 per day. Rules and redemption vary from retailer to retailer, but the program’s overall influence on fresh produce purchases at participating retailers is undeniable.

double up food bucks

According to the Fair Food Network’s most recent grocery program overview:

  • Michigan produce sales went up 34% between 2015 and 2016 at 12 participating retailers;
  • Harp’s in Arkansas saw produce sales increase 50% during a one-month pilot;
  • Food Bowl 99 in California had to add an additional day of produce deliveries to accommodate increasing demand;
  • Ball Food Stores in Kansas and Missouri saw redemption rates top 70%; and
  • Lowe’s in New Mexico saw produce sales increase 25%.


Low-tech roots

The program started with farmers markets, where a low-tech approach to buying fruits and vegetables made it easy for the system to work. Consumers used physical tokens to redeem their SNAP allocations from stall to stall, and farmers market vendors exchanged the tokens for payment once the day’s market was over.

Translating that program to retail, however, requires a more high-tech approach, and that’s where the new USDA grant comes in, says Holly Parker, senior director of programs for the Fair Food Network.

“We’re using the money to push new technology innovations to help Double Up work even better,” she says. “It allows us to make the shift from physical tokens to electronic transactions.”

A more seamless integration into participating retailers’ point-of-sale systems also will make it easier for them to track double up dollars, and will allow for interoperability. Participants can use their Double Up Food Bucks loyalty cards to earn at one location and redeem at another, she says.

Shortly after the grant was announced in August, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash announced it was tripling the number of stores offering the program.

Grocery stores present one of the best opportunities to reach the most SNAP participants, and the fresh produce incentives just make sense, Parker says.

“We feel like the Double Up is such a practical approach to improving health,” she says. “This grant really just adds to the momentum and helps us innovate.”


First posted on Produce Retailer  October 2, 2017.