2. Introducing new customers to HIP

Available resources:

  • Check out HIP FAQ pages on the CISA website. They fit on one printed page, front and back. Make multiple copies as handouts, or laminate copies to keep at the market manager’s table. (Available in English and Spanish)
  • A collaboration between The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Healthy Hampshire, and CISA has already provided a few markets with HIP volunteers to explain the program, create marketing materials, and answer questions. Volunteers have limited time, however, and there are many markets across the Pioneer Valley.  If you have volunteers or staff at your market, please encourage them to attend a HIP volunteer training to learn best practices and bring them back to your market – or sign up to attend yourself! Click here for a volunteer description and contact Mia to find out about upcoming trainings.
  • Grant money for hiring SNAP support at markets is available through Massachusetts Farmers Markets (MFM). Contact Caroline at MFM for more info, or ask Mia at CISA if you need help.
  • Project Bread’s hotline for SNAP customers’ HIP questions is 1-800-645-8333.
  • Have customers send questions to the “HIP-Healthy Incentives Program, Pioneer Valley” Facebook page through Facebook Messenger.

Tips from market managers:

  • Each time a customer comes to the market manager’s table with an EBT card, engage them on HIP in some way. Examples:
    •  “Have you had the chance to earn your HIP incentive already this month?” before swiping their EBT card at the market manager’s booth in exchange for tokens
    • “Have you seen this information about the HIP program?” (show them the flyer that was mailed by DTA)
    • “Do you know about HIP, the new program that provides extra money on your EBT card for fruits and vegetables from local farms?”
  • Keep track of how many times you’re giving the “HIP speech.” It helps to see trends and also to know how many people the market has educated, helping them from no or little knowledge to being comfortable and excited about using HIP.
  • If a customer is just not getting it, encourage them to go try it with a small purchase and then look over their receipt. Usually the visual aid helps them to grasp what’s happening. The farmers can offer some assistance in explaining, and sometimes the market has the capacity to offer to walk over with a customer to try it together.
  • Keep a copy of a HIP receipt at your booth, laminated, to aid the explanation of how the program works.

Helpful phrases from a market manager:

  1. “So, HIP, Healthy Incentives Program, is a new program for Massachusetts SNAP recipients where you now can earn extra money on your SNAP card when you buy fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers.” (Sometimes we pause here and ask how many people are covered by their EBT card in the person’s household if it doesn’t feel invasive, because it really helps to explain the math, and the customers seem to respond to knowing the exact numbers.)
  2. “With HIP, you’ll use your EBT card right at the farmer’s booth. They’ll swipe your card and the amount of the sale will be deducted from your SNAP balance and then automatically reimbursed, it’s an instant rebate. You can do that up to your monthly cap of $ ___.” (Try saying “reimbursed” and “rebate” in the same sentence because it really helps keep people’s attention!)
  3. “You’ll be taking from your SNAP balance before the rebate, so you need to be sure that you have enough of a SNAP balance to make it work. Unlike SNAP, HIP is available for everyone based on the calendar month. When do you get the money on your card? Okay, so, when you get that money, come here as soon as possible to spend your $40/$60/$80 and then you’ll be right back to where you started.”

Notes from market managers:

  • It is important to gauge the customer’s individual understanding of your initial inquiry. You may need to try a simpler or more streamlined focus if people start to tune out or get frustrated.
  • It’s important that the HIP speech be conversational. Try to pause and ask if things make sense, make a little joke about it being the “rules of the game”- you have to read them before you play! But it’s also important to get out the main info in a quick way that doesn’t hold up the customer or the line.
  • Explaining HIP repeatedly can be time consuming, but market managers are in a unique position to educate people about the benefit — and customers appreciate it. Says one market manager: “We have had people in tears, many who come over to show us what’s in their bags when they’re done shopping and people who continue to stop by to thank US at the market manager’s booth!”

Special thanks to Niki Lankowski of Grow Food Northampton’s Tuesday Market for sharing the market’s ‘HIP speech’ with us!

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