South Carolina Pursues a Healthy Bucks Program for SNAP

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SC Appleseed believes that ending hunger, along with ensuring access to healthy foods, should be the focus of our health officials. However, in recent months, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in South Carolina has come to the forefront as part of a larger discussion on the high obesity rate in the state. A discussion that, at times, dismissed the important role SNAP plays in the fight against hunger in our nation. The SNAP program is the country’s best defense against hunger which means preserving the program along with increasing its buying power is the right solution for South Carolina.

This is why we are excited South Carolina is in the early stages of pursuing a state-wide Healthy Bucks Program that will ensure our most vulnerable residents won’t go hungryexpand access to healthy foods for low-income families, support local farmers, and grow our economy.

 It’s a common sense solution and a win for everyone.

HEALTHY BUCKS

A Healthy Bucks program will allow SNAP participants in the state to stretch their federal food assistance dollars to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The SC Department of Social Services will be submitting a waiver to give  South Carolina permission to implement a new program that will provide incentives to encourage healthier choices for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, directly benefiting low-income families and local farmers.

Sen. Pinckney and AlexanderSC Appleseed extends its sincere thank you to S.C. Senator Thomas C. Alexander of Oconee County and S.C. Senator Clementa C. Pinckney of Jasper County who through the state budget process ensured the initiative to develop Healthy Bucks would make it through. South Carolina is now on the path to implement a common sense way to get fresh fruit and vegetable to our most vulnerable residents.

A PROVEN PROGRAM THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

By doubling federal food assistance dollars at farmers’ markets, low-income families in South Carolina will gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while helping small-scale rural farmers grow their business, and their bottom line. The program would use existing infrastructure (i.e. markets, produce, trucks, farm stands and food share programs) to:Farmers Market Photo by Natalie Mayor Flickr 2

  •  Improve access to affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved communities
  • Grow the local economy by supporting purchases from local farmers
  • Shift public policy so that federal nutrition assistance programs address health, hunger, and nutrition and support a sustainable food system

The state-wide Healthy Bucks program was inspired by a smaller-scale initiative piloted in Orangeburg by the USC School of Social Work which provided a $5 match for the first $5 spent in food assistance dollars at a health-center-based farmers’ market. The program was wildly successful. Four times more SNAP dollars came to the farmers’ market – and into the pockets of small-scale S.C. farmers – after the doubling program was introduced. This revenue is more likely to stay within rural communities in South Carolina as farmers shop in the community, invest in local banks and pay workers. As a result of their success, South Carolina is now taking steps to implement a scalable, state-while model that encourages low-income consumers to leverage their federal food assistance benefits to purchase healthy produce, simultaneously increasing the income of the state’s farmers and making a positive impact on the local food economy.

SUCCESS WITH SNAP LEADS TO MORE OPPORTUNITY

South Carolina is able to pursue this program, because of the sponsored proviso by Sen. Alexander and Pinckney directing the use of the $1.892 million in bonus money the SC Department of Social Services received along with eight other states for managing the SNAP program effectively and efficiently. We believe the return on investment is going to be remarkable. Investing $1 in the doubling program will result in two additional food-assistance dollars in revenue for small-scale rural farmers. Low-income families will also benefit. These families will now be able to take home and eat more S.C. grown blueberries, sweet potatoes, squash and tomatoes because of the Healthy Bucks program.

EVERYBODY WINS

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential to improve health. In other states, double-bucks programs have resulted in increases in fruit and vegetable intake among low-income families. Healthy Bucks programs are a way to make healthy choices easier while increasing economic opportunity for small-scale farmers. They offer a win for farmers, a win for families, a win for communities and a win for taxpayers who foot a portion of the bill for diet-related health problems. Healthy Bucks programs are a promising approach to improve the SNAP program in South Carolina. We look forward to working with SCDSS on the development of a successful program and seeing it thrive for years to come.