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¡Más Fresco! at Northgate Gonzalez Market
“¡Más Fresco! is a promise,” says Joe Prickitt, the Senior Director of the Southern California Nutrition Incentive Program known as ¡Más Fresco! More Fresh. “It is the promise of a more just and equitable society that honors, respects, and supports the health and well-being of all community members.”
Recipients of CalFresh, California’s program for supplementing the food budgets of low-income families and individuals, can further enroll in the ¡Más Fresco! (More Fresh) program, and earn $1 in financial incentives for every $1 of Calfresh EBT dollars spent on fruits and vegetables at participating Northgate González Markets—up to $40 per month. The extra dollars earned can then be spent on additional produce. This essentially doubles the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables food-insecure families can buy.
One ¡Más Fresco! participant says she used the additional funds to buy organic fruits and vegetables for her children while she was in school. “It felt like I had a dignified option,” she says. “The program respected where I was and where I was trying to go in my life.”
In addition to providing financial incentives, the program includes ongoing fruit and vegetable discount pricing promotions and in-store nutrition education, including healthy food shelf-labeling, cooking classes, and store tours.
To date, over 5,000 CalFresh households across Southern California have enrolled in the ¡Más Fresco! Program. Based on point-of-sale data, as well as self-reported survey data from members, the ¡Más Fresco! Program has resulted in a significant increase in the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables, while simultaneously achieving a significant increase in food security among program participants.
“It’s so nice to not have to go to bed hungry anymore,” says another recipient, who noted that he feels healthier since incorporating more fresh produce into his diet.
¡Más Fresco! Program participants serve the most food-insecure people in our communities. Approximately 80% of participants report suffering from “low” or “very low” food security. In contrast, 48% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, and 12% across the national U.S. population, report such severe food insecurity.
The vision of the ¡Más Fresco! initiative is to continue maximizing resources under the promise of the USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) to make fruits and vegetables more affordable for those who are already participating in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and CalFresh, in order to promote the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables for better health.
These programs have been championed bi-partisanly due to the way they also support farmers, grocery store retailers, and community members, not only in terms of community health and well-being, but also by providing a significant economic stimulus for local economies.
Northgate Gonzalez Markets, the official partner of ¡Más Fresco!, worked with the University of California San Diego’s Center for Community Health and the United States Department of Agriculture to develop this model of a nutrition incentive program supporting the health of communities nationwide.
“The hope is for a better life for everyone, for all community members. The hope is for a more equitable and just food system and health system,” said Prickitt. “¡Más Fresco! members are like all of us, looking to achieve a healthier community, contribute to a better community.”