Technology to Help Improve Nutrition and Promote Healthy Eating in New York City
NEW YORK (Jan. 29, 2018) –Technology is increasingly playing a part in New York City’s effort to solve food insecurity and health inequity. The New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy is partnering with Minnesota-based technology company Solutran to bring its Healthy Savings® program to some New York City residents facing food access barriers including high costs and limited availability of healthy foods.
A cohort of qualifying residents in Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx are the first to be offered the program as part of a pilot in 2018. Area health care providers and a food pantry began enrolling participants and issuing Healthy Savings cards in mid-January.
Participants with a Healthy Savings card can download the free mobile app, which includes a virtual card to scan for savings, shows available savings on fresh produce and other healthy foods, and grocery store locations. The participants can save 50 percent off the price of fresh produce and an average of 25-30 percent off additional healthy food items that includes lean meats, milk, bread, yogurt, beans, cereal and more from 200 participating food companies.
Stop & Shop®, Western Beef® and Juniors® are the first retailers to offer the program in the city. A scan of the card or app at checkout instantly discounts the foods, giving savings of up to $10 a week ($520 a year) on fresh fruits and vegetables to the shopper.
The technology that powers the Healthy Savings program was developed by Solutran, Inc., who also invented leading technology for the nationwide SNAP and WIC food programs.
“We wanted to change shopping behaviors and we knew technology would play a role. But building a platform ourselves would have been a huge and expensive challenge,” said Barbara Turk, director of food policy in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. Turk led an interagency team to explore innovation that could help the city tackle food access challenges. “Collaboration was the key – this program is a result of working with an impressive technology solutions provider, Solutran, and its Healthy Savings program, as well as our community partners who know the importance of making healthy food affordable for their patients and pantry clients. Together, we can improve nutrition for all New Yorkers.”
Turk credits Stop & Shop, Western Beef and Juniors for being the first retailers of what she hopes will become a broader network of stores across the region offering the program to increase food access. Turk added, “The Mayor’s Office of Food Policy is also grateful to Helmsley Charitable Trust, New York State Health Foundation, New York Community Trust, the Staten Island Foundation and Maimonides Medical Center of Brooklyn for stepping forward to provide generous financial support for the program.”
“We bring technology and partners together to help people eat healthier,” said Chad Kelly, chief marketing officer of Solutran, “including government entities, employers, health plans, food companies and grocery retailers. The technology makes it effortless for the consumer.” Kelly cites that nearly 1 million people have access to Healthy Savings and have already saved more than $1.5 million buying healthier foods.
The Healthy Savings program is already performing successfully in the Midwest where health plans provide it to their insured and employers offer it to their employees. The program has expanded to the Northeast and South Atlantic regions of the U.S. and is expected to be national in the second half of 2018.
Healthy Savings expands on the city’s current healthy eating programs by reaching more people and enabling year-round savings. If the pilot increases healthy food decisions among its 6,000 participants, organizers plan to make it available to the broader New York City population.
“Too many people face steep barriers to accessing healthy food,” said Turk. “Healthy Savings is a promising approach to making food security and healthy eating easier for New Yorkers.”
About Healthy Savings
Healthy Savings is a program for participants to save on healthier foods without having to clip, print or download coupons. Discounts are pre-loaded onto participant accounts each week and activated with a simple scan of a barcode from a card or mobile phone at checkout of participating retail stores. The technology for Healthy Savings was developed by Solutran, Inc. a Minnesota technology company in the financial services industry.