Stop & Shop plans to go chainwide with a program that offers food insecure consumers prepaid debit cards “prescribed” by health care providers to buy fresh produce.
Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop said yesterday that the Fresh Connect program from nonprofit About Fresh is now accepted at more than 100 stores in eastern Massachusetts. Plans call for the Fresh Connect — piloted initially at Stop & Shop’s Grove Hall store in Dorchester, Mass. — to roll out to the supermarket chain’s 400-plus stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey by early spring.
Stop & Shop noted that, with the expansion of Fresh Connect, it becomes the first major retailer to make the produce-as-a-prescription program available.
Fresh Connect’s prepaid debit cards, funded by health care organizations, are sent to food insecure customers after they're enrolled by a health professional. (Photo courtesy of About Fresh)
“Increasing access to fresh and healthy foods for those facing food insecurity remains a top priority for us when it comes to caring for our communities,” Stop & Shop President Gordon Reid said in a statement. “With food insecurity continuing to impact the neighborhoods that Stop & Shop serves at an overwhelming rate, we’re proud to come together with About Fresh to ensure that even more people can access fresh, high-quality foods that support their well-being.”
Fresh Connect’s prepaid debit cards are funded by health care organizations, primarily major institutions such as Brigham Medicaid ACO, Brigham Women’s Faulkner Hospital and Boston Medical Center. Health providers sign up — or “prescribe” — food insecure patients according to baseline health indicators, and monthly card disbursement amounts are set via the HIPAA-compliant platform’s enrollment form. Participants receive their cards in the mail and can use them to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at grocery stores, restaurants and other food retailers, including online. At checkout, the cost of the eligible items is deducted from the total purchase amount.
Before partnering with Stop & Shop, Fresh Connect cardholders were able to use their cards only at About Fresh’s “Fresh Trucks” offering fresh produce at sites around Boston and at local retailers. The Boston-based nonprofit said that making Fresh Connect cards available through Stop & Shop gives participating consumers wider access to fruit and vegetables, since many already are shopping at the chain’s stores.
In Massachusetts, as many as one in seven adults and one in five children are grappling with food insecurity, numbers elevated amid economic pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the Greater Boston Food Bank cited by Stop & Shop and About Fresh.
“Especially in the midst of the global pandemic, working with Stop & Shop to ensure communities have access to fresh fruits and vegetables is more important than ever,” commented Josh Trautwein, co-founder and CEO of About Fresh. “By combining Stop & Shop’s reach across the Northeast with Fresh Connect’s innovative prescription produce program, thousands of people are gaining access to affordable, healthy food that they love.”