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While the Auburn Tigers and California Golden Bears face off on the football field in Berkeley, California, on Sept. 9, an initiative called the +Add Milk! Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive will be working simultaneously in both states, allowing shoppers to save money while making healthier food and beverage choices.

The Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI) in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences launched the +Add Milk! Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive (HFMI) in June with a goal to increase the purchase of healthy fluid milk (nonfat and low-fat) by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For every dollar of SNAP benefits a participant uses to purchase healthy fluid milk, +Add Milk! provides a dollar incentive as a coupon or discount to redeem for additional SNAP items.

Currently, +Add Milk! provides healthy fluid milk to numerous locations throughout Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota, with 79 of those locations being Mother’s Nutritional Centers in California.

The store front of Mothers Nutritional Centers in California

The +Add Milk! Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive program will provide healthy fluid milk to 79 Mother’s Nutritional Centers located throughout five counties in California.

“Nutrition incentive programs, like +Add Milk!, are important in helping SNAP households access healthy foods by not only providing financial incentives, but also by collaborating with local, independent retailers who already provide incredible customer service to SNAP households,” said Alicia Powers, managing director of Auburn’s Hunger Solutions Institute. “HSI is thrilled to collaborate with Mother’s Nutritional Center, a respected retailer in California known for their personalized shopping experience, locations in areas with limited food access and appeal to a diverse customer base.”

Earlier this year, HSI officials contacted a team at Mother’s Nutritional Center where Nancy Knauer works as the program director for programfs implemented at the nutritional center’s chain of stores.

“We are a local corner store, in communities where people walk to the stores,” she said. “We are in five counties in California and our emphasis is very much on customer service. It’s such a personalized shopping experience here, we know our customers by name.”

Customers at the center’s stores should be positively affected by this incentive program because their access to fresh, healthy food and beverage choices could be limited, compared to those in other highly populated areas where access to healthier food is easier.

“For California, the SNAP program is called CalFresh, and I think it’s going to be a great plus because people that shop with us most are using CalFresh and for them it’s doubling up their dollars,” Knauer said. “With the price of groceries so high, it really allows them to get more with their benefits and a lot of people need help nowadays in getting more from their dollar.”

Susan Hubbard, Mike Rogers, Jimmy Wright and Michael Dykes

College of Human Sciences Dean Susan Hubbard, Congressman Mike Rogers, Wright’s Market owner Jimmy Wright, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long and International Dairy Foods Association president and CEO Michael Dykes attended a celebration event in June, marking the launch of the +Add Milk! Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive program, which will encourage the purchasing of healthy fluid milk at more than 116 locations in Alabama, California, Georgia and South Dakota.

The HFMI program was established as part of the 2018 Farm Bill to promote milk as part of a healthy, balanced diet consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Overall, Americans are consuming less milk and in particular, low-income households usually purchase more high-fat milk than low-fat milk. Low-fat milk is an important part of a healthy diet, and health researchers have warned these declines over time could have health impacts on future generations. Studies have shown that incentive programs, like +Add Milk!, increase the purchase and consumption of incentivized food.

Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association who also earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Auburn in 1982, believes in the HFMI program and the impact it will make throughout the nation.

“In the face of ongoing food insecurity, it is crucial that we discover means to maximize the value of SNAP benefits by promoting the consumption of nutrient-dense foods,” he said. “We are immensely grateful for the exceptional talent and expertise of Auburn HSI in driving this program forward, as we work together to foster healthier eating habits.”