About this resource
This backgrounder provides an overview of programs around the world that provide financial support and incentives to families living on low incomes to increase their ability to purchase healthy food.
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is one of the most impactful ways to improve health, but one of the most difficult things for people living on low incomes to do given limited resources and time. Only 27% of Canadians in the lowest income bracket are getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Over the past decade, a growing number of fruit and vegetable incentive programs have been established in the United States with promising results, leading to improved diets and better health for people living on low incomes and other populations at risk for diet-related diseases. These programs provide financial incentives, such as vouchers and prescriptions, that can be used to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and fresh food vendors.
Why it matters
Demonstrated benefits of fruit and vegetable incentive programs include increased fruit and vegetable consumption, reduced BMI, and improved food security at the household level. These programs can also benefit farmers and local markets by attracting new and repeat customers to farmers’ markets, and increasing the viability of fresh produce markets in low-income areas.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are vital to reducing the risk of chronic diet-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. Research suggests that scaled-up fruit and vegetable subsidies, for example a nationwide 10% subsidy on all fresh produce, could lead to major health benefits and cost savings.
What we do about it
Expanding and adapting fruit and vegetable incentive programs to fit the Canadian context has the potential to offer important benefits, helping to reduce the socioeconomic inequities around access to good food and good health. Community Food Centres Canada is working in partnership with Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations to pilot and study adapted fruit and vegetable incentive models. We hope to see positive and cost-effective results, and gather evidence to assess how this intervention could be scaled and implemented in diverse settings across Canada.