Giant Food links with prepaid debit card program to tackle food insecurity

Dive Brief:

  • Giant Food has teamed up with Boston-based About Fresh, which allows participants of its Fresh Connect program to use prepaid debit cards to buy “prescribed” fresh food by healthcare providers, About Fresh announced Tuesday.
  • Starting this week, all of the grocer’s locations in Washington, D.C., will launch Fresh Connect. Participants of the program will be able to access free classes, consultations and additional resources offered by Giant Food’s Healthy Living Team, the announcement noted. 
  • The tie-up comes at a time when grocers are increasingly focused on food insecurity and comes just weeks after the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health held in September. 

Dive Insight:

In conjunction with the Giant Food partnership, About Fresh also said in its Tuesday announcement that it’s now working with DC Greens, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is focused on advancing health equity through food.

About Fresh noted that DC Greens has been responsible for administering the city’s produce prescription program, which allows medical professionals to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to patients with diet-related chronic illnesses. The launch of Fresh Connect at Giant Food ties into the DC Greens’ oversight of that prescription program. 

“As a food retailer, we recognize the important role we play in improving access to healthy and affordable food,” Lisa Coleman, MS, RD, and director of healthy living at Giant Food, said in a statement. “Our partnership with About Fresh allows Giant to expand produce prescriptions and other nutrition incentive solutions to community partners who are also focused on health.”

Initially started as a mobile food truck, About Fresh launched its Fresh Connect platform in 2018 to offer a Fresh Connect debit card to food-insecure individuals enrolled in the program by healthcare providers. About Fresh says on its website that it tracks shopping activity and creates monthly activity reports on how participants use their card benefits.

Josh Trautwein, co-founder and CEO of About Fresh, claims that the organization is the first to offer a “retailer-agnostic, frictionless point-of-sale payment solution for food prescriptions.” 

Food insecurity is a hot topic for grocers. At the start of this year, Stop & Shop — another Ahold Delhaize banner — announced a partnership with About Fresh. That grocer has now made About Fresh’s program available at more than 400 of its stores in New England, per the Tuesday press release. Major grocers, technology companies and third-party e-commerce providers in the food industry made new pledges to address hunger and nutrition issues in conjunction with the White House’s conference in September.  

Also in September, DC Greens launched a pilot for a similar prescription program that is aimed at children and families, About Fresh noted.

Giant Food’s new partnership builds on its efforts over the years to address a lack of access to fresh and nutritious food. 

Last month, the grocer announced a more than $765,000 donation as part of a campaign to address food insecurity among children in local communities. In late June, the grocer brought back delivery of its local produce boxes for the summer, which it launched last year. In 2021, Giant Food teamed up with Flashfood to help reduce food waste by discounting items nearing their best-by date and also debuted a microgrant program geared toward supporting people in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8 with nutrition knowledge and access to healthy food, financial literacy and healthy living.

For About Fresh, the Giant Food and DC Greens partnerships expand the Boston-based organization’s footprint to the Mid-Atlantic region. In the greater Washington, D.C. region, as many as 1 in 3 residents have grappled with food insecurity in the past year, Luisa Furstenberg-Beckman, produce prescription program manager at DC Greens said in the announcement, citing the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2022 Hunger Report