- Stop & Shop has teamed up with Boston-based nonprofit About Fresh to address food insecurity, letting shoppers use prepaid debit cards “prescribed” by healthcare providers to buy healthy food, the Ahold Delhaize banner announced this week.
- Called Fresh Connect, the About Fresh-run program is available at more than 100 Stop & Shop stores in eastern Massachusetts and will reach the retailer’s entire fleet of more than 400 stores by early spring.
- Food insecurity is “continuing to impact the neighborhoods that Stop & Shop serves at an overwhelming rate,” Gordon Reid, president of the supermarket chain, said in the announcement. The retailer said the Fresh Connect program boosts convenience and access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
About Fresh, which started with a mobile food truck, rolled out the Fresh Connect platform in 2018 in an effort to address health disparities, according to the organization's website.
Healthcare teams enroll patients in the Fresh Connect program and can set monthly card disbursements, which are funded by healthcare organizations like Brigham Medicaid ACO, Brigham Women’s Faulkner Hospital and Boston Medical Center. About Fresh says its platform is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), a federal law regarding the protection of patients’ sensitive health information.
The About Fresh Visa Reloadable Corporate Incentive Prepaid Card identifies eligible healthy foods while the customer is checking out. About Fresh tracks what shoppers buy with the cards and uses that information to generate monthly “activity summaries.”
The nonprofit also offers a cardholder support line so that people can check their card balances, ask questions and find retailers, restaurants and farmers markets that accept the cards. Before Stop & Shop, people could use their cards at About Fresh’s mobile food trucks.
Stop & Shop is the first major retailer to partner with About Fresh, per the emailed announcement. Josh Trautwein, co-founder and CEO of About Fresh, said linking up with Stop & Shop will give “thousands of people” access to Fresh Connect.
In 2019, Giant Food, another Ahold Delhaize banner, announced plans to pilot a program called Produce Rx with nonprofit DC Greens to improve access to healthy foods to Washington, D.C.-area shoppers.
The announcement cited 2020 projections from the Greater Boston Food Bank that as many as one in seven adults and one in five children in eastern Massachusetts grapple with food insecurity, noting those estimates have increased during the pandemic. Feeding America estimates more than 38 million people, including 11.7 million children, are facing hunger across the U.S.
The nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association created a workgroup last summer to explore functionality needed in point-of-sale solutions to make it more efficient for grocers to offer nutrition incentives.
Prescription programs were among the top five ways retailers can further food-as-medicine offerings, according to a report last year by the Food Industry Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. The other four included personalized nutrition education, medically tailored nutrition, path-to-purchase marketing and incentive programs.