To combat the issue of poverty and food insecurity in East Harlem and the South Bronx, Meals For Good, Inc. (MFG) developed a supermarket-based food voucher and gift card program funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, a poverty-fighting charitable organization based in New York. MFG created vouchers and gift cards for buying foods at designated supermarkets (vouchers in East Harlem), and any grocery store or bodega (gift cards in the South Bronx). MFG partnered with three community-based organizations in East Harlem and one in the South Bronx to distribute the vouchers and gift cards to residents experiencing food insecurity in June and July 2021.
Individuals and families received a one-time incentive to purchase food at local grocery stores, in the form of vouchers or gift cards. The participating supermarkets printed out a duplicate receipt for purchases made with the incentive, which was then shared with the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center research team.
- MFG Participants bought foods that are not frequently provided at food pantries, such as meat products, oil, and spices.
- The food purchasing habits of MFG Participants were similar to those of the average American household: the majority of money for food was spent on meat, fresh produce, and pantry staples.
- Supermarket-based voucher programs may allow for greater autonomy of food choices.