Harvest Market Launches Healthy Food Incentive

Apr 19, 2023

Jennifer Bosma, VP at Harvest Market, gained an interest in bringing more fruits and vegetables to shoppers in need when she learned about Double Up Food Bucks at a National Grocers Association (NGA) conference in fall 2020. 

She was eager to bring the program to her community and store, but ran into accessibility issues. A few years later, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), the nonprofit public policy organization that managed the Double Up Food Program in the Bay Area, launched a pilot program to help families using SNAP. Bosma jumped at the chance to participate, and three years later her perseverance and patience paid off. 

As of March 7, 2023, the Northern California independent grocer was officially offering this healthy food incentive rebate program to their shoppers, becoming the first brick-and-mortar store in California (and the country) to offer the new “CA Fruit and Veggie EBT Pilot Program.” In other words, Harvest Market is the first grocery store to offer healthy food incentives straight onto a customer's EBT card.

"We're thrilled to be a part of this pilot program," Bosma said. "As independent grocers, we're here for our community and that means getting everyone, regardless of income, access to fresh, healthy foods."

How it Works

The instant rebates are provided to participants in CalFresh (California’s federally funded food assistance benefits program, also known as SNAP), who earn matching dollars when they buy California-grown fruits and vegetables. For example, if a shopper buys $5 worth of local produce, they receive $5 on their EBT card.

Customers can earn up to $60 in rebates per month at the Harvest Market locations in Fort Bragg and Mendocino, California. 

These programs have been proven to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables leading to reduced hunger, improved health, and increased business for the California agriculture industry.

Getting it Started

When implementing this program, one of the first things that Bosma had to do was get all the point of sale vendors on board with it.

“So that's from RORC, all the way to Fiserv and our credit card processing and connected payments,” she said. “But they all got on board and submitted their RFPs and got approved, and they did all the programming and we were the first grocer to be done, tested, and approved.”

Bosma has been working with Eli Zigas, food and agriculture policy director SPUR, and his team to launch the program since fall 2020.  SPUR manages one of the pilots, which will include a total of eight grocery stores within three independently-owned chains — Arteaga’s Food Center, Santa Fe Foods, and Harvest Market —in Santa Clara, Alameda and Mendocino Counties. Two other organizations manage pilots in other counties across the state.

“What distinguishes the [retailers] who raise their hand first is a deep, deep commitment to their community,” Zigas told The Mendocino Voice. “Every time I told Jennifer, ‘It’s more months of delay, it’s taking longer than we thought, I’m so sorry,’ she said, ‘Well, I’m still committed, because I want to see this in the community. There are so many people who need this help, and I want to be able to offer it to them.’” 

The other step was figuring out how Harvest Market can identify California grown products if their invoices don't say it.

“Going forward as more people adopt this, I'm hoping our produce vendors will just put what is California grown on the invoice, or on the order guide,” Bosma said.

To help make the experience easy for EBT shoppers, Harvest Market labels produce with "California Grown" tags.

Why it’s Needed

“Right now, with inflation, a reduction in public assistance benefits, and pandemic benefits ending, people need help. And they need help on eating fresher, healthier food,” Bosma said on the importance of this program. “This program gets fresh produce into more homes and encourages people to eat healthier. They get more food for their EBT dollar, and it helps California farmers.”

As Bosma mentioned, the termination of the COVID-19 State of Emergency causes a loss of $18 million in retail grocery spending from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The CalFresh pilot project will run through December 2023. California Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula introduced a $94 million proposal (AB 605) in the California Legislature to expand this program to reach hundreds of thousands of people at grocery stores and farmers markets across the state.

Harvest Market has promoted the new program on their social media channels, and will also be advertising on their local radio stations. Flyers are also being sent home with all of the school children in the district in English and Spanish.

How to Get Involved

Double Up Food Bucks is now available in over 25 states. To see if your state is participating, click here.

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