Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman, from left, First Lady Trudi Inslee, and Karl Schroeder, president of the Seattle division of Safeway and Albertsons, attend the Complete Eats kickoff event June 20, 2017. (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

New program helps families on tight budgets afford healthy foods

Complete Eats program allows SNAP participants to buy more fruits, vegetables

For many people in Washington, cost can be a barrier to healthy eating. That’s why the Washington State Department of Health and Safeway have teamed-up to launch Complete Eats, a new program that will help families on a limited budget buy more produce.

First Lady Trudi Inslee and state Secretary of Health John Wiesman helped kick off the program Tuesday at a Safeway store in Renton. Complete Eats offers extra savings to shoppers who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, referred to as SNAP and formerly known as Food Stamps, at Safeway stores.

Complete Eats is now available at all 150 Safeway locations in Washington, and it is among the nation’s first SNAP incentive programs to be offered in a major national retailer.

“Gov. Jay Inslee and I are passionate about raising the healthiest next generation by ensuring that children exercise, get a great education and have access to great nutritional food,” Trudi Inslee said. “It is really important for families and for the future of our state. Complete Eats is a wonderful private-public partnership between the Department of Health, Safeway and farmers. This is a great model that should be replicated.”

Complete Eats is simple. Shoppers at Safeway who buy at least $10 worth of qualifying fruits and vegetables using their SNAP card and their Safeway Club Card will get a coupon for $5 off their next purchase. Coupons will automatically print at checkout.

Shoppers can choose from a large variety of fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen — so long as the products have no added fats, sugars or salt. Complete Eats logos on Safeway shelf tags will help shoppers identify qualifying canned and frozen products.

Produce is on display during the Complete Eats event at a Renton Safeway store on June 20, 2017. (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

“We are pleased to partner with Safeway to help our most vulnerable kids and families get fresh, accessible and healthy foods,” Wiesman said. “Complete Eats exemplifies how much we can achieve when government and private industry work together.”

When it comes to offering nutrition incentives to families who use SNAP, the participation of a major chain supermarket is important. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 81 percent of all SNAP benefits are redeemed at supermarkets and large grocery stores, so these large retailers are uniquely positioned to reach SNAP shoppers with incentives for buying nutritious foods.

A sample of the coupon Complete Eats program participants can receive. (Image courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health)

Another notable feature about Complete Eats is that the program offers coupon savings on fruits and vegetables, which is rare. Research shows that very few store coupons are ever for fruits and vegetables, and most are for sugary drinks.

Complete Eats is scheduled to run for two years. The program is funded by Safeway and Albertsons (the grocery chains merged in 2015) and DOH’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant, which is awarded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the USDA. In 2015, DOH and more than 60 partners were awarded the largest FINI grant in the country.

Many of the Washington FINI partners also serve on the Governor’s Council for the Healthiest Next Generation. In 2014, this council recommended encouraging fruit and vegetable purchases through SNAP as a community-led strategy to promote healthy eating. Complete Eats helps fulfill that goal.

“We at Safeway and Albertsons believe that healthy eating creates healthy communities. We are committed to supporting Complete Eats, and doing our part to provide our customers fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables,” said Karl Schroeder, president of the Seattle division of Safeway and Albertsons.

More information about the Complete Eats program can be found on the Department of Health’s website.