Food Store Incentive Programs

Create incentive or recognition programs that encourage grocery stores and convenience stores to promote healthier food options and reduce marketing of unhealthy foods.


Food store incentive and recognition programs create the opportunity for existing food stores, such as grocery or corner stores, to offer healthy, affordable foods and market them. Communities can use incentive programs to reward small business innovation, offset financial costs associated with store upgrades, and lay the foundation for expanding healthy food retailer initiatives through citywide policy. Incentives can come in the form of tax relief, subsidies, grants, or loans for stores willing to offer healthy foods. Rewards can come in the form of certifications, awards, publicity, or proclamations. Incentive and recognition programs are often used to promote the following activities:

  • Point of Purchase prompts
  • A nutrition labeling system
  • Improved product placement and advertising
  • Coupons or pricing incentives
  • In-store healthy food and beverage education and sampling
  • Local food procurement and promotion

Wisconsin Examples

Waupaca Eating Smart (WES): This local effort of the Waupaca County Nutrition and Activity Coalition (NuAct) helps people make nutritious food choices in restaurants and grocery stores.

Wisconsin Corner Store Assessment Tool in Rural Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Department of Public Health partnered with the University of Wisconsin Extension and 11 coalition groups to expand the Wisconsin Corner Store Assessment (WCSA) tool. The tool helps corner stores identify the need for improvements through a series of questions related to healthy food choices. With improvements, corner stores can now make it easier for residents to choose healthier options.

Healthy People Lincoln County: With support from the CDC and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD) worked to increase access to healthy foods in corner and convenience stores through various strategies, including coupons for healthy foods, taste testing of healthy options, point of purchase prompts, and prominent displays of healthy products.

Equity in Practice

Recognizing Inequity: Residents in low-income areas are typically less able to purchase healthy foods. When there are healthy options, high cost can be a barrier.

Advancing Equity: To increase health equity, food store incentive and recognition programs can be implemented in food stores in low-income areas, including corner stores or convenience stores. Increased availability of healthy foods, point-of-purchase promotions (shelf labels, posters), and community engagement can boost healthy food sales and improve consumer knowledge and behavior.

Implementation Resources

Incentives for Change: This is a publication of ChangeLab Solutions that provides an overview of how local communities can reward small food retailers who whish to make healthy changes to their business model and suggests funding sources and partnerships to implement incentive programs locally.

Checkout Healthy: This is a publication of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and acts as a toolkit for addressing the food environments within and surrounding food stores in Wisconsin communities.

The Healthy Food Access Portal: This website provides information on national, state, and local financing programs designed to improve the quality and availability of fresh and healthier foods in low-income communities and communities of color.

NACS reFresh Resources: The National Association of Convenience Stores reFresh Initiative includes resources to help retailers develop new tools to serve their communities and showcase the results.

National Healthy Corner Stores Network: This network connects community members, nonprofits, local government, funders, and other advocates across the country to share information, resources, and best practices on the latest strategies for healthy food retail in small stores.

What's in it for Retailers? Establishing Partnerships with Food Retailers to Conduct Healthy Food Choice Research: This brief includes an overview of how to approach retailers and develop partnerships, as well as how healthy food choice research partnerships can be of value to retailers.

Assessment Tools

Idaho Plan4health Coalition Neighborhood Food Assessment Toolkit: This toolkit focuses on assessing the food environment at the neighborhood level. It contains a comprehensive set of data collection tools and instructions on collecting demographic data and primary data, including a neighborhood food survey, grocery store price and availability analysis, store layout and marketing analysis. This toolkit could be used to assess what kind of food people want or need, as well as for implementation of incentive/recognition programs.

Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Stores (NEMS-S), Corner Stores (NEMS-CS), Grab and Go Outlets in University Settings (NEMS-GG): This nationally used set of tools includes a stores tool, corner stores tool, and grab and go tool for university settings. The tools primarily assess available foods and aren't used to assess how recognition or incentive programs are working or whether one is in place.