Power to choose
Fruit and vegetable incentives put healthy food in Washington shoppers’ reach
After moving from Seattle to Spokane to complete drug and alcohol treatment, Omero needed some support to get back on his feet. While launching his new chapter in Eastern Washington, Omero connected with community health advocates who lived in his apartment complex.
They told him about Complete Eats coupons — which increase the purchasing power of people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing matching funds for fruits and vegetables.
With Complete Eats, when shoppers like Omero purchase $10 dollars of fruit and vegetables at participating Safeway stores, they receive a $5 coupon for fruits and vegetables at the end of that transaction to use toward a future purchase.
“[Complete Eats] really helps me feel a little bit better about myself, like I have options. Because when you don’t have a lot of stuff it is nice to have something that you can just go into a store and pick whatever you want.”
Now looking for his next job, Omero also uses Fresh Bucks, which provides a similar benefit for SNAP shoppers but at participating local farmers markets.
“…when I go to the Farmers Market and get the Fresh Bucks, it’s like ‘now I have more money in my budget than I did.’ It’s nice to have that extra spending room.”
Complete Eats, Fresh Bucks, and Fruit and Vegetable Prescriptions (which are distributed to patients and clients of 16 Washington health care systems and local health departments) are all part of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program managed by the Department of Health and operated in partnership with dozens of local and state-wide organizations. Together, these programs help people like Omero all across the state by boosting their access to healthy foods.
From 2015–2018, thousands of Washingtonians have benefited FINI programs — and had the ability to buy more fruits and vegetables:
- 60,000 shoppers used Complete Eats Coupons
- 26,000 shoppers used Farmers Market Incentives
- 6,200 patients redeemed Fruit and Vegetable Prescriptions
During the first year of Complete Eats, shoppers who used the fruits and vegetable coupons increased their fruit and vegetable purchases at participating grocery stores by 15% compared to the previous year:
“I’ve slowly changed my dinner habit to going from a boxed thing to just nothing but vegetables.”
As a result of the FINI programs, participants report eating more fruits and vegetables, being more food secure (i.e., not running out of food), and being better able to manage health conditions.
But the benefits of FINI programs extend beyond health — more “money” for low-income individuals and families means more choices at the checkout (or farmers market) stand, and, to Omero, that empowerment has been truly priceless:
“I can actually have options and I can debate on what I want to get. And that’s actually really nice to have for somebody, because that gives them a lot of freedom and power in such a small tiny way, but it’s big overall.”
Shoppers like Omero can look forward to FINI programs in the future. Current funding for these programs come from a time-limited U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, and support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. During the 2019 Washington State legislative session, SHB 1587 was signed into law creating a Fruit and Vegetable Incentive program housed at the Department of Health. Along with the legislation, $2.5 million in one-time funding was appropriated (for the 2019–2021 biennium) to implement and expand FINI programs throughout the state.
Learn more about FINI programs at the Department of Health: