Healthy Incentives Program reinstated

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On Monday, May 21, Gov. Charlie Baker granted the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) $2.15 million in supplemental funding to finish off its fiscal year, which will in turn help a successful Island Grown Initiative (IGI) program carry on its mission.

In 2017, the program was so popular with Islanders enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), they outpaced their pre-established three-year budget in only 1 year.

HIP is a food assistance program that aims to provide the community with fresh produce and support local businesses.

With HIP incentives being reinstated on the Vineyard, SNAP clients can go to any of the authorized retailers on-Island and receive additional benefits based on the number of people per household.

These retailers include Morning Glory Farm, the West Tisbury Farmers Market, Island Grown Farm Hub at Thimble Farm, and the Island Grown Mobile Farmers Market.

The mobile market is a food truck that delivers locally grown produce directly to six different neighborhoods around Martha’s Vineyard.

Noli Taylor, community food education director at IGI, said the truck helps families who are too busy to go to the farmers market, as well as people who have limited mobility. “We are bringing the food directly to customers who can’t come and purchase it themselves.”

The monthly incentive cap for HIP-qualified purchases is $40 for one or two people per household, $60 for three to six people, and $80 for households of eight or more people.

Taylor said she is excited to continue providing such a valuable service to Islanders who need wholesome, nutritious food. According to Taylor, SNAP customers aren’t the only ones who will reap the benefits of the HIP.

“This program will also help Island farms and businesses, because it encourages people to shop at local establishments like Morning Glory,” said Taylor.

The program is bringing a new customer base to local businesses, she said. “People might be encouraged to shop locally because of the incentives that HIP provides,” said Taylor.

Taylor said she is grateful to the state legislature and to Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, as well as Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, for their continued support. “They have been long standing advocates of our program,” said Taylor.

Taylor said that funding for the 2019 fiscal year has not been officially declared, but the prospective yearly allotment would be around $4 million, although IGI is advocating for $6 million for that year.

“I think the usage will continue to grow,” said Taylor. “People see the value in our program, and I think they will continue to utilize it.”