Healthy Eating Incentive Program Begins

By Mario A. Cortez

UCSD and Northgate Gonzalez Markets will soon kick off a program which aims to increase the consumption of fresh produce among recipients of assistance programs in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

The program, which will include a dollar-for-dollar match fund to be used for produce as well as educational and discount programs, is financed by a grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to made to the UCSD School of Medicine’s Center for Community Health.
The match program will allow beneficiaries of the SNAP and CalFresh programs to receive incentive dollars as a reward for purchasing fruits and vegetables.

According to Joe Prickitt, senior director of the Southern California Nutrition Incentive Program at the UCSD School of Medicine, the development of such a program is “quite amazing.”

“This is the very first time that the USDA has ever developed a program that rewards participants for making healthy choices,” said Prickitt in an interview with la Prensa San Diego earlier this week. “What [the USDA was looking for] was a partnership to provide technology to make it possible for calfresh recipients to receive an incentive at the point of sale.”

The match program will use an electronic wallet which will be tied to the benefits recipient’s shopper loyalty card. Whenever the a recipient uses their benefits they will receive a dollar-for-dollar match up to $40 a month on the purchase of specific produce items. The matched amount will then be added to an electronic wallet which is tied to the shopper’s store rewards program.

“The next time someone comes into the store there is money waiting for them in their electronic wallet, which is meant to be used for buying fresh fruits and vegetables,” Prickitt continued. “This is the type of innovative technology that the USDA was looking for to make it doable for people to come to the store buy produce earn an incentive and redeem their bonus at the store.”

The accrued match balance from the qualifying purchase will be indicated on the purchase receipt.

In an interview with The Shelby Report dated from September 2016, when the program’s details were being finalized, Victor Gonzalez, owner and vice-president of Northgate Gonzalez Markets, said that “it is our goal to develop an effective, efficient, and replicable financial rebate system that can serve as a national model for retailers and contribute to the enhanced health and well-being of low-income community members.”

People interested in enrolling in this program can enroll at the Northgate Gonzalez Market on 5403 University Avenue, in San diego on March 13, 17 and 18. On March 27, and April 1 and 2, enrollment will take place at the Northgate Gonzalez Market on 1410 S. 43rd Street in San Diego.

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