By now, you should be aware of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentive programs operating in approximately 1,000 grocery stores across the country through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (formerly FINI) with funding provided by the USDA. Perhaps you are even contemplating establishing an incentive program for your store to help SNAP shoppers add more fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets. SNAP incentive programs offer a great way to become more involved with, and better serve, your community along with an opportunity to increase your produce sales.
But is your store incentive ready? If your store was contacted about participating in a SNAP incentive program, wouldn’t you like to be ready to quickly start providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need and be reimbursed for what you give away?
Since there is limited funding for SNAP incentive programs, having your store incentive ready may help your store be at the front of the line when a nonprofit or government agency in your area is seeking retailers to participate in a SNAP incentive program.
You may be thinking, “Aren’t all POS systems already incentive ready?” The fact is, not all POS systems can conduct efficient and accurate electronic incentive transactions without cashiers having to make critical decisions and sometimes making costly mistakes.
The National Grocers Association Foundation Technical Assistance Center (NGAF TA Center) can help you find out if your store is incentive ready and, if not, what needs to be done to prepare. The NGAF TA Center serves as a free resource assisting grocers in establishing SNAP Incentive programs in their communities.
In our experience as a TA Center, the costs to becoming incentive ready can vary greatly. Some retailers have had little to no expense adding the capability to their POS system, while some stores have made a substantial investment in adding SNAP incentive transactions. Below are a few basic characteristics of what is considered an accurate and efficient incentive transaction on the POS system.
- Does not require cashier intervention or decision making at issuance or redemption of the incentive.
- Automatically recognizes a SNAP transaction and automatically triggers incentive issuance either during the current transaction or for redemption during a future purchase.
- Automatically determines product eligibility for SNAP incentive issuance or redemption.
- Works in a “mixed-tender transaction,” where a customer uses some combination of SNAP, WIC, credit/debit and cash during the same transaction.
- Satisfies reporting requirements for both the nonprofit/government agency and retailer to maintain program financial integrity.
To the credit of some POS system developers and dealers, there have been creative workarounds allowing incentive transactions to occur even on some relatively old POS systems. The successes may vary in alignment with the transaction characteristics previously listed, but they do work.
If your current POS system is not capable of conducting a SNAP incentive transaction, third-party developers have also been creating solutions to enable the transactions. Some customer-loyalty programs have incorporated solutions into their platforms along with new platforms designed specifically to manage the transactions outside of the POS system via “cloud” transaction processing.
As you can see, methodologies to conduct nutrition incentive transactions at the POS can potentially inhibit the expansion of programs to more retail food stores. In reaction to this challenge, NGA and FMI have written an open letter asking food retailers, grocery wholesalers, national and state associations, and nutrition incentive program providers to join together in supporting a new initiative to collaborate with POS system developers in creating retail transaction and reporting solutions for nutrition incentive programs. We encourage all industry leaders to sign on to this call to action expressing your interest in the creation of industry-wide POS solutions for nutrition incentive transactions.
If you have any questions about your store’s SNAP incentive capabilities or how to make your store “incentive ready,” please reach out to the NGAF TA Center team of experts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have the resources to get the answers you need! There are no fees or NGA membership requirements for our team to work with your store.
* The NGA TA Center addresses the challenges grocers and supermarket operators face in establishing nutrition incentive programs and is a proud partner of the Nutrition Incentive Hub. The Hub, funded through a cooperative agreement from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is a new national resource that provides training, technical assistance, reporting, and evaluation for those working to launch or expand SNAP incentives or produce prescription programs. The Hub is led by Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in partnership with Fair Food Network along with a coalition of evaluators, researchers, practitioners, and grocery and farmers market experts from across the country dedicated to strengthening and uniting the best thinking in the field to increase access to affordable, healthy food to those who need it most.