HIP Resources and FAQ for Market Managers
What is HIP?
The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) allows all MA SNAP customers to earn an additional $40, $60, or $80 of benefits per month through buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers. HIP is a statewide program, the first of its size anywhere in the U.S, and is slated to continue through April 2020.
Market managers’ role in HIP
The role you play as market manager, with direct access to both customers and farmers, is crucial to HIP’s overall success.
The FAQs listed in this resource center have been collected from vendors, market managers, and volunteers across the Valley – read through for ideas to support your customers and vendors. Post-HIP forum, please continue to share your feedback and suggestions, to help ensure continued success and ease of the program over its duration.
HIP recommendations, tips, or frustrations? Write down what customers are saying. Keep track of issues and share with the DTA and CISA. You are being heard.
Satisfied and happy HIP vendors or customers? Ask their permission to take videos or photos of their story to share with CISA or post to the Facebook page (HIP-Healthy Incentives Program, Pioneer Valley). Because of the high demand for HIP, additional funds will need to be raised to meet needs, and positive takes on program successes can contribute to legislative and funding decisions.
Have additional ideas to share with other market managers for this resource center, or needs that have not been addressed? Please let Mia know!
What HIP does for your market
- HIP increases sales. HIP is huge – for farmers, for customers, and for your market. In the first six months of the program, Massachusetts SNAP consumers have bought more than $1.7 million worth of fruits and vegetables directly from participating HIP farmers, and have spent many tens of thousands more on other SNAP-eligible foods sold by farmers. That’s up from $470,000 of combined SNAP sales at the same points of sale throughout all of 2016. Increased sales means your market is more profitable and attractive to quality vendors. Examples we’ve heard about in the Pioneer Valley:
- A Hampshire County market reports an increase of EBT sales by roughly 100%
- A Hampden County vendor reports doubling their overall sales
- A Franklin County market reports an increase in vendors, attributed to increased customer demand due to HIP
- HIP helps farmers build their business. With few exceptions, HIP transactions happen directly between customers and vendors, offering farmers choice and opportunity to take advantage of this new program directly. Farmers’ EBT transactions are tracked electronically through their own devices.
- HIP publicizes your market and brings in new customers, expanding your customer base. The MA Departments of Transitional Assistance and Agricultural Resources are collaborating with their many partners throughout the state to spread the word about HIP at Massachusetts markets. Once your market has an active HIP vendor, your market’s listing is updated on the MassGrown website. Because the Healthy Incentive is only available to SNAP customers when purchasing fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers, new customers are visiting farmers’ markets to stock up like never before.
- HIP incentivizes repeat visits to the market, building a stable customer base. Because the HIP benefit cycle turns over on the calendar month, SNAP customers have a new opportunity to earn their $40, $60 or $80 incentive at the market each month.
- HIP provides an opportunity for markets to increase their average transaction value. When SNAP customers maximize their HIP benefit with fruits and vegetables, they have more money to spend at a market on other SNAP-eligible foods like honey, cheese, or meat.
- HIP expands access to seasonal, fresh produce for people who are struggling economically. HIP helps to bridge the gap between local farmers and their diverse communities.
As the Healthy Incentives Program rolls out, markets also face new challenges. Some problems are temporary and are dissipating at markets as the program grows in numbers and familiarity. Some require forward thinking and creativity to best serve the market community.
Challenges you may have experienced:
- A customer’s favorite vendor is not HIP-ready
- Introducing new customers to HIP
- Customers are unsure which vendors accept HIP
- Not enough vendors at my market accept HIP
- Vendors getting lost in HIP application process
- Language barriers between market staff and customers
- Low EBT funds make using HIP difficult for some customers
- HIP requires customer service tweaks
- Some customers disappointed HIP is only for fruits and veggies
- My market isn’t attracting many EBT customers