SNAP Incentives Advocate Fact Sheet
Informational materials, like core background details and stats, in one page.
Together, we can we can drive economic growth for local farmers and businesses and build a healthier community. Throughout this toolkit, you’ll find information and resources that can help you advocate for this issue and increase awareness about the benefits of SNAP incentives.
Across the United States, many families and individuals struggle with food insecurity. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps alleviate this issue by enabling participants to stretch their food dollars and purchase healthier foods.
The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program was established in 2014 to boost local economies, while simultaneously helping to further increase access to healthy food and address hunger challenges. By adding financial incentives to encourage SNAP participants to purchase more fruits and vegetables, these families and individuals are able to improve their diets overall.
The reality is that two-thirds of SNAP participants are children, the elderly and people with disabilities. We must advocate for the necessary funds to add these financial incentives so that all SNAP participants are able to purchase more fruits and vegetables. Together, we can we can drive economic growth for local farmers and businesses and build a healthier community.
Throughout this toolkit, you’ll find information and resources that can help you advocate for this issue and increase awareness about the benefits of SNAP incentives. Here at Voices for Healthy Kids, we want to work with advocates like you to spur healthy changes in local communities nationwide.
SNAP incentives have become a powerful way to improve economic outcomes for local farms and businesses while also helping to increase the amount of healthy foods available to low-income families and individuals in the United States.
Incentive programs are designed to help the 44 million people in the U.S. who participate in SNAP – two-thirds of whom are children, the elderly and people with disabilities – use their benefits to purchase incentivized healthy products while receiving a matching amount to purchase additional fruits and vegetables.
Authorized in 2014, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program provides $100 million in federal funds for grants to support these produce incentive programs for SNAP participants around the country. And studies show that these programs are effective: SNAP participants who receive added financial incentives to purchase more fruits and vegetables spend more of their SNAP benefits on these healthy foods. Furthermore, every $5 spent using SNAP generates as much as $9 in economic activity.
But in order to access the funds, local and state governments must design implementation programs, and in most cases, procure matching funds before they can launch this important benefit.
In this toolkit, you will find a variety of resources to help kickstart your own campaign to advocate for SNAP incentives. Working with fellow community members and local organizations, you have the power to instigate exciting changes. It’s critical that our decision makers understand the benefits of SNAP incentives programs for both the health of our communities and of our economy.
No matter what issue your campaign is focused on or which organization leads it, there are three key phases to each campaign: recruit, engage, and mobilize. Throughout this toolkit and the sections within Build a Campaign, you will find guides to recruiting and activating an advocate base, spreading the word online, alerting local media, and communicating with state and local public officials to encourage inclusive policies that support health and improve the economy in your communities.
Make sure you have designated time for planning, launching, and executing your campaign, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way as you gain more information about your advocates and community leaders.
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Informational materials, like core background details and stats, in one page.
Informational materials, like core background details and stats, in one page.
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Informational materials, like core background details and stats, in one page.
These are the stories of those working to engage, organize, and mobilize communities to help make each day healthier for all children.
This first phase of the campaign is where you lay the groundwork that will ensure your success.
To start, think about these questions:
Remember to consider reaching out to both organizations and individuals who might be interested in supporting your campaign. Reach out to these potential advocates via all channels available to you: social media, existing member databases, personal emails, blogs, paid advertisements, community outreach, tabling at street fairs and festivals, public announcements at places of worship, etc.
Be sure to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate materials; the wider you can cast your net, the more likely you are to recruit a diverse audience that cares about the changes you want to make. Stretch beyond your comfort zone.
Once you determine who is on your side, start thinking about how to garner support from public officials and other important leaders. In many cases, you will want to share your message with supporters and ask them to send a letter to key government officials so these leaders recognize the need for SNAP incentive programs your community. Keep in mind that it is not lobbying to ask people to contact legislators to raise awareness about a general policy issue or to influence an administrative action. But if your communication refers to legislation or legislative proposals and asks people to contact legislators, then it is a lobbying. You can do this outreach through numerous channels:
Finally, before you execute any of the tactics in this toolkit, make sure you establish your metrics of success. Determine how you will measure the effectiveness of your campaign’s communications no matter what they may be. Some examples of things to measure include:
Deploying a campaign isn’t just about mobilizing your supporters to act in support of your cause. A true advocacy campaign is, at its core, an opportunity to draw more supporters in and retain them for future engagements to improve the health of your community. The following recruitment guidelines will help you accomplish these goals.
In this section, you’ll learn about recruiting new advocates through a variety of tactics, including events, online, word-of-mouth, tapping into your competitors, and engaging in your community. Pick and choose the best recruitment options for your campaign and build a plan around it.
Note that these tips are suggestions, not requirements. Choose the approach and tactics that work best for you, your organization, and your community. Regardless of how you decide to recruit new supporters, make sure you dedicate sufficient resources to communicating with the diverse audience you hope to engage.
For instance, if you are trying to reach:
Latino audiences: consider the need for translators and translated materials; build meaningful relationships with Latino-led and serving organizations that can help with recruitment. Remember to be authentic with your outreach. Get to know your audience and what messaging and resources will be most helpful to them.
Decision makers: consider connecting with leaders who have successfully advocated for similar programs in their communities to use as examples and champions for the efforts in your community.
Disability audiences: make sure all of your marketing materials are in an accessible format. Be sure to include appropriate language and images that depict the disability community. Build meaningful relationships with disability led and serving organizations that can help you with recruitment and identify leadership roles within the campaign. be sure to include people with disability into the planning process so you don’t miss the mark in your marketing.
There are many organizations that work to increase access to and consumption of healthy food. Some are singularly focused on one topic while others look at broader issues. While some groups may not perfectly align with your goals for this campaign, it is still worth reaching out to them, as they may be valuable partners for other programs you are pursuing or some of your long-term organizational goals. Be sure to review the Diverse Audiences section when considering who might be a potential ally.
In your recruitment efforts, make sure to also include organizations that are minority led. Work to ensure you include these groups in true collaboration and engage them throughout the campaign. Simply reaching out to ask an organization to sign a letter of support and not engaging any further is not supporting diversity within your campaign and your campaign will not be as strong as it could be because of that oversight.
Below are some suggestions for potential partners in your community:
Although some potential allies will be publicly outspoken about their opinions on your topic, others will be subtler in their approach. Before deciding on any potential partner or opponent, be sure to look at their goals, mission statement, programs, and activities to ensure they align with your priorities.
A strong campaign starts with a strong recruitment push. By creating a foundation of supporters early, you will have them ready to activate when the time comes. Consider the following ways to grow your base of support by recognizing these new advocates:
Whether you are reaching out to new or existing advocates, we suggest taking advantage of specific times of the year when engagement with community initiatives is traditionally high. Leverage local festivals, farmers’ markets, sporting events, or other key moments in time in your local community. Consider creating recognition pieces around farmers’ markets, local street fairs, festivals, or kids’ sporting events (such as opening day of Little League), with free entry or food tickets.
Speak up when it is time to vote in local or state-wide elections. If the state government is voting on measures pertaining to your campaign’s focus, this is a key time to recognize existing and potential advocates who can help bring attention to the issue and kick start the momentum for policy change. If you have the lobbying resources to do so, asking advocates to contact their legislators to vote for the measure you care about, or vote against a preemption measure—and then thanking the advocates when they do—is an important step.
Urging advocates to contact legislators may be grassroots lobbying. Asking people to contact members or staff of Congress, a state legislature, tribal government, county council, or city council is lobbying if you refer to and reflect a view on specific legislation (or a specific legislative proposal). However, contacting local public health departments or zoning board members is not lobbying, regardless of the content of the communication. Make sure you have the resources to pay for any lobbying activities and that you track them appropriately against your campaign’s overall budget.
Use the calendar to inspire you. Create recognition pieces around key health observances taking place throughout the year (e.g. National Nutrition Month in March or Child Health Day in October).
Volunteers are not the only ones who make a campaign a success. As you thank your volunteers for their efforts, make sure to thank the staff members who keep the campaign running every day, when applicable. Celebrate them publicly. If you hold an annual celebration, highlight the good work the staff has done over the past year. Offering awards or opportunities to acknowledge good work publicly lets employees know you recognize and value their work.
Conduct a staff contest to see which members can bring in the most advocates over a specified period. In return, offer a day off or a gift card as an incentive. Highlight the diversity of your staff to demonstrate the importance of engaging all parts of the community. This is particularly important in the disability community. Be sure to staff individuals with a disability to be most effective.
Ask your strongest recruiters of new advocates to lead a call or webinar, so they can share their tips with other staff members.
The second phase of the campaign is about building relationships through education and engagement.
This is the perfect time to start building relationships. Stay in regular communication with your activists so that they remain engaged, informed, and ready to take action when needed. Start building relationships with the media, who tend to respond best to people who are organized, clear, polite, and have newsworthy things for them to write about. When preparing your media outreach efforts, use the following to determine if your story has one or more of these newsworthy hooks:
Media engagement should include both minority-serving and mainstream press. Be sure to check out the toolkit sections that provide sample introductory language for your social media and e-communication efforts directed at advocates and media.
Additionally, this is the time to start working with a diverse group of spokespeople relevant to your community, including those with a disability, by beginning to train others to serve as the voices of your campaign.
Remember to think about your whole community, and make sure all groups within the community have authentic engagement. Use the media and key messaging tips in this toolkit as a place to start. Make sure your spokespeople are familiar with your talking points, so they are confident when speaking in public or with media. Lastly, be sure to schedule your press conferences and events so that you give reporters and community members ample notice to ensure optimal coverage.
No matter the issue you are working on, or the policy goals you’re trying to advance, engaging with diverse audiences needs to be an integral part of your campaign.
The most successful campaigns are often the ones that speak to and engage as many different people as possible. Priority populations—including people living in high-poverty, urban areas (particularly African-American and Latino) and people living in high-poverty, rural areas, and people with disability—are particularly important to engage as partners and advocates. These populations disproportionately carry the burden of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Below are some questions designed to make you think about who you are reaching out to and how. These are thought-starters and not necessarily an exhaustive list of questions:
It is going to take community support to stop preemption efforts. Fortunately, social media allows you to share your message with a wider audience than traditional door-to-door grassroots work can. With a few clicks, you can access the right people at the right moment, making them aware of the issue and garnering their support. The following tips will help you do just that: extend your community of advocates online to create an even bigger groundswell of support for the cause. National experts may already have sample resources you can model after or tailor for use in your campaign.
With more than 100 million active users on Twitter every day and over a billion daily active users on Facebook, social media can serve as a powerful tool to amplify your message and reach highly targeted audiences. Just as consumers are increasingly turning to social media for news, so are journalists. While they use social media to follow items of personal interest and to interact with their own networks, they also use it to research stories and follow trends.
Now that your initial planning is done, it is time to act. Reach out to your advocates, your spokespeople, the media, etc., and let them know your campaign is in full motion.
Stay in regular touch with your engaged, diverse community members to keep them informed and involved. During all phases, but especially this one, make sure you track the movement of the issue at hand, so you know how to instruct your supporters. You may need them to do educational outreach at local gatherings to build popular support in the community. At other times, a social media action may be best to help bolster recruitment. They may need to write letters to their legislators because a vote in the statehouse is just around the corner. (The costs of planning and conducting this last type of activity will require lobbying funds.)
As for media, this is the phase where you want to follow through on the relationships you established in the Engage phase. By this time, you have made connections over the phone, social media, or email with reporters and local bloggers. Keep in regular touch with reporters to keep them informed and give them ideas for covering your campaign.
If you are planning media events like press conferences, this is the time to execute. Get your spokespeople ready to lead events. For more details on media training, check out the Media Training Tips, and make sure they reflect the diversity of the audience you’re trying to reach. Set up opportunities for new advocates to sign up to join the cause. Let media know when events are happening, and give them special incentives to cover the story, like a behind-the-scenes press pass that grants them an interview with your spokesperson and exclusive photo opportunities.
Your existing database of supporters is perfectly positioned to become engaged grassroots activists.
By joining your email list, these individuals have already indicated they want to learn more about who you are and the issues important to you. The next step is converting their interest into a deeper level of commitment to your mission—and to helping communities across America—by getting your supporters to complete an action, such as signing a petition, communicating directly with policymakers and other decision makers, or attending events. Remember to develop action alerts in the relevant languages spoken in the community.
As you begin a conversation with your supporters through email, keep these goals in mind:
Working with local media is a key way to raise awareness about your campaign, priorities, and goals. Media coverage can help you educate communities, create conversation, and recruit new advocates. But before you can do any of these things, you must first thoughtfully develop and carefully plan how you want to present the issue to reporters. Building relationships with media and pursuing media advocacy well in advance of hosting a media event will help to ensure your message frame is understood and you are well-positioned by reporters.
Start by thinking about what you want to accomplish and whom you want to reach. Do you have news to release, such as a report or study? If not, what is your media hook? Does the nightly news highlight your campaign issue? What about the trending coverage in your local paper? Would you be better served by engaging with community bloggers? Once you decide what your media goals are, you can start identifying opportunities that match these priorities and begin your outreach plan.
One way to engage members of the media is by inviting them to an event. A well-run media event—one with compelling speakers, stories, clear facts, and easily explained goals—will give reporters the tools they need to amplify your story in newspapers, on-air, and online.
Even in today’s digital era, person-to-person contact remains one of the most effective means of relationship building. Below is an overview of how to train volunteers for phone outreach, as well as an explanation of two different types: phone banks and phone patch-through programs.
Public commentary has long been one of the most powerful ways to broadly communicate ideas. By having an opinion editorial, commonly called an op-ed, published, you’ll be able to convey your campaign’s essential messages to legislators, journalists, and the community through the voice of one of your volunteers or advocates who is passionate about your cause.
In the past few years, competition from expanded news and information sources like blogs and social media has made publication easier, but competition for attention tougher. This means that you’ll have to offer your best thinking and most influential voices to maximize your chances of having a newspaper print your op-ed—and have people care who you are and what you have to say.
Speaking to the media can seem a bit daunting, but by telling a compelling story you can gain tremendous traction with the public and decision makers. Unlike any other tactic for your campaign, engaging with key media could allow you to access a wide audience in a personal manner.
Begin by determining which media outlets are important to move your campaign forward and develop your list of outlets and journalists. Remember to include media who have natural connections with the campaign. They’ll be more likely respond to your pitch, and you’ll be more likely to reach the audiences who care about your issue and may be willing to get more involved.
Once you know the outlets you want to contact, secure spokespeople who will resonate with the readers, viewers, or listeners of the outlets. Work with your media team to develop a newsworthy pitch. Make sure that your spokespeople are prepared to speak to the media and will have time available for interviews before you begin reaching out to the media.
With the appropriate preparation and practice, your spokespeople will become comfortable with your messaging and will be able to speak articulately and passionately about the issue. The guidelines below will help you prepare them for media success.
Individual meetings can go a long way toward making a difference with your legislator—but sometimes there is strength in numbers. If you are looking to combine a media event and a legislator meeting, you may consider hosting a day at the state capitol where advocates hold a rally and then attend scheduled meetings with decision makers.
Here are some things to think about as you plan your own day at the capitol.
Decision makers want to know what’s important to their constituents. Having face-to-face meetings with your advocates and their legislators is an effective way to humanize your topic, make it relevant for the decision makers, and encourage these leaders to commit to this issue. Whenever possible, schedule an in-person meeting with key decision makers and supporters from their districts. Identify the right advocates for each target based on interest and the ability to share a credible point of view. Make it easy for advocates to make the most of their visits by preparing briefing packets with talking points, key tips, and a one-pager to leave behind that overviews the issue and contains your contact information. See more tips below.
Whether you meet with representatives in local home offices or take a special trip to the state capitol, you can have a strong impact when you can look legislators in the eye and answer their questions about your campaign, share personal stories, and discuss proposed solutions. But don’t underestimate the value of meeting with the staff of decision makers. Staff are the lifeblood of a policy maker’s office and are key to keeping your issue in front of the decision maker.
Below are some helpful tips to make the most of your meetings.