NYC Independent Grocery Stores Offering Produce Incentive Program
Inspired by research findings that access to quality, whole foods is key to the development of healthy residents and communities, but that access in underserved areas can be a problem, The Fund for Public Health in New York City, on behalf of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), has joined forces with retail technology company STCR and local grocery operator Fine Fare to roll out Get the Good Stuff, a produce incentive program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
Through the initiative, SNAP recipients who use their benefits to buy eligible fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits, vegetables and beans will get additional money to buy more eligible fruits, vegetables and beans. For each dollar spent using SNAP benefits on eligible produce and beans, customers will get an additional dollar, enabling them to buy up to $50 more in produce daily.
The first grocer to launch the program is Fine Fare, which has independently operated stores in the New York metro area, supported by retail technology company STCR, which developed the effort in tandem with Frank Pimentel, owner of the Fine Fare Supermarket at 459 East 149th Street in the Bronx, and DOHMH.
“We have heard all positive reviews of the program so far, and STCR is happy to be partners with Frank and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on this new exciting initiative,” said Farrell McKenna, general manager at Endwell, N.Y.-based STCR. “We are looking forward to continuing to provide value to Frank’s store, the grocers of New York, and a continued partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.”
Get the Good Stuff will run through April 30, 2020, with the expectation that it will likely continue through April 20, 2021. Funding is approved through the United States Department of Agriculture. The Fund for Public Health in New York City will continue to seek more stores to take part in the program and will work with the Department of Health to help with program implementation.
To participate, stores must meet the following criteria:
- A maximum of 50,000 square feet of retail space
- Location(s) in a New York City ZIP code where more than 20% of the population lives below the federal poverty level as measured by the 2011-2015 American Community Survey
- Authorization to accept SNAP, ability to share the store’s SNAP authorization number for DOHMH to share with USDA, and use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system equipment and transaction services
- At least $1,000,000 in SNAP sales for the prior year
- At least 50% of retail space for foods intended for home preparation, as compared with prepared foods
- A variety of fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils without added salt, sugar, fat or oil
- No tobacco products
- Use of an electronic POS system to process and record customer transactions, with the ability to adapt the system to identify items that are eligible for incentives and use customer loyalty technology to distribute and redeem fruit and vegetable incentives
- Willingness to explore opportunities to procure locally grown produce to sell at the store
Consumers interested in enrolling in the program can go to participating Fine Fare stores in the Queens neighborhood of Jamaica and in the Bronx.
Recently, SNAP piloted an online purchasing program in New York, with Amazon, Walmart and ShopRite among the participants, and plans to roll out to other states. A similar produce incentive program targeting SNAP recipients, Double Up Food Bucks, a public-private partnership pioneered by Ann Arbor, Mich.-based nonprofit Fair Food Network, is currently available in 29 states, according to the program’s website.
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, a representative for STCR noted that "there are a few other pilot locations in addition to Fine Fare that have either launched or are in the process of launching in the very near future," although the rep declined to provide specifics. However, the DOHMH has revealed that Three Guys from Brooklyn, an open-air market in the New York City borough, will roll out Get the Good Stuff early next year.
Additionally, the STCR rep told PG that DOHMH is evaluating stores to continue the expansion of Get the Good Stuff into 2021, but no definitive plans have been confirmed as of yet, and so far discussions have involved only New York City grocers.