Research & Practice

Recommendations for Seattle Fresh Bucks: Produce Prescription Program Best Practices and Benefit Level Adjustments

Seattle Fresh Bucks is a produce assistance program serving over 12,000 households in the City of Seattle by providing them with a monthly $40 voucher to purchase fruits and vegetables at 30 local farmers markets, farm stands, independent grocers, and supermarkets. Operated by the City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment and informed by Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, the program’s mission is to “eliminate disparities in healthy food access for communities most burdened by food insecurity, economic hardship, and environmental injustices.”

Food costs, particularly for fruits and vegetables, are on the rise, disproportionately overwhelming under-resourced communities. Roughly 70% of Seattle Fresh Bucks participant households are extremely low income and more than half list a language other than English as their preferred language. The $40 benefit level provided by Seattle Fresh Bucks for produce purchases, which does not vary by household size, has not changed since program inception in 2012, despite significant inflation. Other food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), take inflation and household size into consideration when determining benefit levels. Although Seattle Fresh Bucks’ benefit level has remained the same over time, program participation has increased due to additional funding from the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax enacted in 2018.

To help Seattle Fresh Bucks expand their reach and improve benefit levels, project participants conducted extensive literature reviews, held interviews with comparable produce prescription programs (PRx) across the country, and visited Seattle Fresh Bucks produce partners to compare consumer costs. Their findings provide ways for the organization to improve their existing offerings through the identification of sustainable funding models, the presentation of best practices in produce prescription program implementation, and suggestions on appropriate benefit level adjustments for program participants based on real-world data.

Community Partner: Seattle Fresh Bucks

Project Type(s): Master's Capstone

Author(s): Allison Burkhalter, Robyn Burnside, Khang Ho, Kara Ikeda, Christina Lin, Alejandro Oropeza Velasquez, Kimberly Siu, Casey Spellman, Stephanie Turner

Program(s): Master of Public Health, Master of Science, RDN Training

Year: 2023