With Help From Local Funders and Partners, the Healthy Savings Program Has Put More Than $88,000 of Fresh Produce on Area Plates Since Its Launch
An innovative program is helping struggling families afford healthy food amid the ongoing economic fallout of the pandemic.
Called Healthy Savings, the program became available to lower-income families in United Way of Western Connecticut’s region beginning in 2019. It has proven to be an easy and effective way to get more healthy food to struggling families, including those who may have lost jobs or wages as a result of COVID-19.
Healthy Savings, a product of Solutran, Inc., is a leading health and wellness program that makes healthy food more affordable. United Way of Western Connectiut partnered with Solutran as part of its commitment to improving food security for the struggling households it calls ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). Many of these households have difficulty affording healthy food, despite working hard. Healthy Savings participants receive a matched benefit on produce purchases and discounts on other healthy food items, allowing struggling individuals and families to put more nutritious food on their plates.
The produce match is dollar for dollar, up to $10. So for each $10 of produce a participant purchases each week, he or she receives an additional $10 in produce for free. Participants receive the benefit by showing their Healthy Savings Card or scanning their mobile app at participating grocery stores. The benefit was increased to $20 from March 23 through June 30, 2020, when the economy was at its worst. In July, as more of those families started received unemployment checks or went back to work, the $10 per week benefit resumed.
Since its inception in 2019, participants through the United Way’s program have received more than $88,000 in free, fresh produce and have saved thousands on other healthy food items, including meat, dairy, and healthy grains. Healthy Savings can reduce grocery bills for eligible users by more than $150 per month, and gives families the choice on how and when to use these savings.
Generous funding from donors, including Bank of America, The Goodnow Fund, and Synchrony allowed United Way to expand the number of households served from 400 to over 680 during the height of the economic shutdown this past spring, while also doubling the value of the produce benefit.
United Way is also partnering with Stamford Health. In 2019, Stamford Health conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). A key finding of the CHNA was that groups with higher rates of obesity and the lowest annual incomes were less likely to report having good or excellent access to high quality fruits and vegetables. Spurred by the findings from the CHNA, Stamford Health developed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), which identifies nutrition as one of three top health needs. In the CHIP, Stamford Health outlines several initiatives to address nutrition needs including collaborating with community partners, such as United Way. Through this partnership, the Healthy Savings program is available to a qualifying cohort of Stamford Health’s patients known to have food access barriers that include high cost. The partnership and $10,000 in funding from the Stamford Health Foundation has helped to enroll 200 new participants in the program.
“We know that good health is about more than just health care,” said Ben Wade, Senior Vice President of Strategy & Marketing at Stamford Health. “We believe in harnessing the power of partnership to improve the health of our community, as evidenced by our backbone support for the Vita Health & Wellness Partnership―a collaboration between community organizations to support the health and wellness of Stamford residents. We are thrilled to be partnering with United Way to provide access to healthier foods at lower costs through Healthy Savings―an innovative and dignified program to improve food security for our patients.”
“For organizations like Stamford Health that want to improve food insecurity, Healthy Savings provides an easy-to-use, impactful model to do so,” said Chad Kelly, Chief Marketing Officer of Solutran, the company behind Healthy Savings.
“Healthy Savings is an innovative approach to address food insecurity in our community and we’re thrilled by its success to date,” said Isabel Almedia, President of United Way of Western Connecticut. “The program empowers families to access the fresh, healthy food that they need in a dignified way, giving them the flexibility to select the items that fit with their health needs and their culture. The demographic of clients that Healthy Savings serves is the same demographic that is being hardest hit economically by the pandemic. By increasing the number of participants and expanding the benefit when they needed it most, we got more healthy food onto their plates quickly. We’re grateful to the many funders and partners who have helped us to expand this successful program.”
Mary and her husband have five children. Her husband has a disability that sometimes prevents him from working his job as a carpenter. During those times, her budget is tight, but she places a high importance on feeding her children healthy food. She inquired about obtaining a Healthy Savings card when she saw her friend using one the week before Thanksgiving. She has been using it since then to purchase the types of fresh food her family likes.
“The United Way keeps my family going and moving in a healthy and positive direction. At times when I’ve been depressed about not having enough money to feed us the healthy meals that I know we need to have, the United Way has been there for me,” Mary said.