An initiative to provide low-income Mississippians with more access to fresh fruits and vegetable is expanding its reach.
Mississippi's AARP Foundation is spearheading the Fresh Savings Program. It's an effort to encourage Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The program is available at 12 Farmers Markets and now five Kroger stores. They're celebrating the addition of Krogers in Jackson and Pearl. SNAP customers who spend $10 on fruits and vegetables at the stores receive a 50% off coupon to buy more. Erin Smith is the program director.
"You spend $10 on your fruit and vegetables with your SNAP card it will also add up. So, if you come in one time and you spend $5 you won't get the coupon printed right then. But you come back another day and you spend $5 within a month then the coupon spits if off," said Smith.
People who buy fruits and vegetables at Farmers Markets receive wooden tokens to exchange for more items. A $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $1 million grant from United Healthcare fund the project. Jocelyn Chisholm Carter is with United Healthcare. The company previously announced it's not insuring Mississippians through the Affordable Care Act exchange at the end of the year. But Carter says that decision doesn't impact programs that insure other residents in the state.
"We still have our Medicaid which is called the Mississippi Can Program. We also still have our CHIP program which is the Children Health Insurance Program and we also still have commercial insurance. So, United Healthcare is here to stay," said Carter.
Kroger stores in Hornlake, Clarksdale and Vicksburg also participate in the program.