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Incentivizing a Healthy Diet for Iowa's Low-Income Residents

Only 1-in-10 U.S. adults gets enough fruits or vegetables, with men, young adults and people living in poverty consuming the least.(localharvest.org)
Only 1-in-10 U.S. adults gets enough fruits or vegetables, with men, young adults and people living in poverty consuming the least.(localharvest.org)
July 2, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa — A new study shows incentive programs such as Iowa's "Double Up Food Bucks" boost healthy eating among low-income residents enrolled in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Iowa is a top food-producing state, but ranks almost last when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption.

The American Heart Association of Iowa said when people eat more fruits and vegetables, they reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity. Jami Haberl, executive director at Iowa's Healthiest State Initiative, said with so much produce available right now, it’s a great time for Iowans to make a lifestyle change.

"We always say Double Up is the triple win, because low-income families eat more healthy foods, area farmers gain new customers and they make more money, and then more of those food dollars stay in the local economies,” Haberl said.

More than 300 Iowa farmers participate annually in Double Up Food Bucks. The program allows SNAP recipients who spend $10 on fruits and vegetables at a farmer's market or participating grocery store to take home an additional $10 worth of produce at no extra charge.

Stacy Frelund, Iowa's director of government relations for the American Heart Association, said the Double Up Food Bucks expansion into some Iowa grocery stores also creates a ripple effect, stimulating economic activity and opportunity in low-wealth communities.

"A lot of times, people are concerned about the cost of fruits and vegetables, and to get them to try some different fruits and vegetables that they've never tried before - I think a lot of it has to do with access,” Frelund said. “And that's another reason why we think this program is really, really important for the state."

Haberl added SNAP users who want to do canning or freezing of fruits and vegetables later in summer can use their Double Up Food Bucks at the most opportune time.

"And we provide a lot of information and education to those SNAP users so they know what produce is available right now versus what's going to be available in the fall,” Haberl said.

Nationally, 1-in-10 families benefits from the SNAP program, in which nearly two-thirds of all participants are children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. For more information, visit voicesforhealthykids.org.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Smoking Prevention, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA