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A woman at a farmer's market looks at affordable fruit and vegetables next to families

Increasing access to healthy foods with sustainable food center

Project overview

Families living with low incomes often face a tough choice each time they enter the grocery store. Should they buy cheap but nutrient-poor foods or pay more for the foods they know their kids need to grow up healthy — and risk running out of money before their next paycheck?

For the parents of nearly 20 million children who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the United States, there is no easy answer. But research shows that when these families receive modest financial incentives, they are eager to invest in health by purchasing more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Our work with Sustainable Food Center improves Central Texas’s local food system by increasing families’ access to nutritious, affordable food through systems change and innovative programs.

Money is tight right now. Before this program, we had to be really careful and only buy the least expensive fruits and vegetables we could afford. Double Up Food Bucks is like a lifesaver, especially when it comes to bringing healthier foods into our lives.

Brittany, Mother of three

How it helps

Parents receiving SNAP benefits have an average of $1.40 to spend per person per meal. To help them get the most for their money, we can increase their purchasing power by making fruits and vegetables more affordable — and making it easier for them to choose healthy food options.

Research shows that modest incentives help families increase their fruit and vegetable consumption by 25 percent. Programs like Sustainable Food Center’s Double Up Food Bucks (formerly Double Dollars) allow families enrolled in SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs like WIC and FMNP to double the value of their benefits when buying fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers. 

Working with Sustainable Food Center is one of the ways we are strategically addressing the social drivers of health, like food. At the systems level, we aim to measure the effectiveness of food incentive programs to show how they can support families, local farmers, and healthcare systems. As programs like Double Up Food Bucks expand into traditional grocery stores, we also can nudge retailers to stock more local fruits and vegetables so that more people can buy fresh produce.

For families, the direct impact is clear. By putting resources directly into the wallets of shoppers, food incentive programs help to make the healthy choice the easy choice. By supporting Sustainable Food Center, we are getting one step closer to our annual goal of improving the health and wellness of over 1 million children and their families across the United States.

Foundation Project Lead