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Bigby_JudyAnn_2Posted by:
JudyAnn Bigby, MD, Secretary of Health and Human Services


Congratulations are in order for the Department of Transitional Assistance!  Massachusetts was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct the first ever Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP), a program that will encourage low-income families to purchase more fruits and vegetable with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) benefits. 


The 2008 federal Farm Bill authorized $20 million for USDA to test whether incentives to buy fresh produce will increase the purchase of healthy foods by SNAP participants. Massachusetts was chosen competitively based on a strong, comprehensive proposal submitted by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).  As the only state to receive this grant, approximately 7,500 SNAP households in Hampden County will be randomly selected to participate in HIP.  For every SNAP dollar spent on allowable fruits and vegetables, these households will receive an additional 30 cents in SNAP benefits on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. 


There are multiple implications and potential benefits of this program. Only about a quarter of adults eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  Processed foods are often less expensive than more healthful options. In fact, for SNAP families the financial barriers to purchasing foods that are consistent with a diet that prevents chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes are particularly relevant. Food choice is influenced by cost.


This pilot program will make healthy, fresh foods more affordable for low-income families to encourage healthier food choices. Ultimately, healthier eating can have a direct impact on lowering health care costs for everyone.


Governor Patrick has made ending hunger in Massachusetts one of his top priorities and strongly supported DTA’s proposal for the USDA pilot.  Under the Patrick-Murray Administration, Massachusetts has made great strides in improving SNAP utilization.  Massachusetts has been recognized by USDA for timely processing of SNAP applications for six consecutive years. As evidenced by USDA’s selection of the Commonwealth for HIP, we continue to set an example for effective use of SNAP benefits.


Massachusetts implemented Mass in Motion in 2009. Awards to several local communities such as Fitchburg have resulted in innovative strategies to promote healthy communities. With the implementation of HIP next fall, we will continue the work we started in promoting healthier living and controlling health care costs.

Written By:

Communications Office

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