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Association of a Fruit and Vegetable Subsidy Program with Food Purchases by Individuals with Low Income in the US

Citation

Berkowitz, Seth A.; Curran, Neal; Hoeffler, Sam; Henderson, Richard; Price, Ashley; & Ng, Shu Wen (2021). Association of a Fruit and Vegetable Subsidy Program with Food Purchases by Individuals with Low Income in the US. JAMA Network Open, 4(8), e2120377. PMCID: PMC8358732

Abstract

IMPORTANCE: Food insecurity is associated with a less healthy diet. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is associated with reduced food insecurity, but benefit levels may be insufficient for beneficiaries to afford healthy foods. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether participation in SuperSNAP, a program that provides an additional $40 per month for the purchase of fruits and vegetables with no added sugar, sodium, or fat to SNAP beneficiaries, is associated with changes in food purchasing.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This longitudinal cohort study used data from transaction records of a large supermarket chain with approximately 500 stores located across North Carolina from October 2019 to April 2020. Participants were SNAP beneficiaries.
EXPOSURE: SuperSNAP participation.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Monthly spending on all fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts (primary outcome); spending on less healthy food categories; and spending on sugar-sweetened beverages as 1 category of less healthy foods. Monthly data on purchases by SNAP beneficiaries before and during SuperSNAP participation were compared with data from SNAP beneficiaries not enrolled in the program who shopped at the same stores. Overlap weighting (a propensity score-based method) was used to account for confounding, and linear mixed-effects models were fitted with random effects to account for repeated measures and clustering by store.
RESULTS: The study included 667 SuperSNAP participants and 33 246 SNAP beneficiaries who did not use SuperSNAP but shopped in the same stores; 436 SuperSNAP participants had preintervention data and were included in the main analysis. SuperSNAP participation was associated with increased monthly purchases of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes ($31.84; 95% CI, $31.27-$32.42; P < .001; 294.52 oz; 95% CI, 288.84-300.20 oz; P < .001). Only a small increase in spending on less healthy food categories compared with the SNAP beneficiaries who did not use SuperSNAP ($1.60; 95% CI, $0.67-$2.53; P < .001) was observed. As total spending increased, the proportion of total food and beverage spending on less healthy foods significantly decreased (difference, 4.51%; 95% CI, 4.27%-4.74%; P < .001). Monthly spending on sugar-sweetened beverages decreased (difference, $1.83; 95% CI, $1.30-$2.36; P < .001).
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort study, participation in SuperSNAP was associated with meaningful increases in healthy food purchasing. Subsequent studies should investigate whether healthy food incentive programs improve health outcomes.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.20377

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published

2021

Journal Title

JAMA Network Open

Author(s)

Berkowitz, Seth A.
Curran, Neal
Hoeffler, Sam
Henderson, Richard
Price, Ashley
Ng, Shu Wen

Article Type

Regular

PMCID

PMC8358732

Continent/Country

United States of America

State

North Carolina

ORCiD

Ng - 0000-0003-0582-110X