USDA backs healthy incentives

Oct. 6, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate, and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity. Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often. To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

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Farmers market vouchers may help low-income families eat healthier

July 24, 2014, HealthDay

Giving low-income families vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets could increase their consumption of these healthy foods, according to a new study.

Low-income families tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. In addition to not having adequate access to healthy foods, cost is also an issue. Farmers market vouchers could help address both of these obstacles, the researchers noted.

“In terms of healthy food options, farmers market incentives may be able to bring a low-income person onto the same playing field as those with greater means,” study author Carolyn Dimitri, an associate professor of food studies at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said in a university news release.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (previously known as food stamps) are accepted at one in four farmers markets in the United States. The researchers pointed out these benefits normally can be used to buy any type of food, including ice cream or soda. Continue reading

New USDA report explores healthy food incentives for SNAP users

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, “Approaches for Promoting Healthy Food Purchases by SNAP Participants,” examines healthy eating incentives for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) users.

Allison Karpyn, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Center for Research and Education and Social Policy at the University of Delaware co-authored the report and was interviewed on WBEZ’s Afternoon Shift program. Listen to The Food Trust’s Dr. Karpyn below.

The project and report was guided by a research question: How can nutrition labeling systems be used to direct, encourage, or incentivize healthier food choices by SNAP participants in retail food settings?

As such, the research project had three main objectives:

1. To develop a plan for how FOP and shelf-labeling systems could be applied to identify healthy choices across all food categories (packaged, bulk, frozen, fresh) and could be used as a basis for incentivizing healthy choices for SNAP participants.

2. To develop theory-based approaches that leverage front of package (FOP) and shelf-labeling systems to promote healthier food purchases by SNAP participants in a manner that is consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

3. To identify two approaches that warranted further exploration, describing a step-wise study design for implementing and testing the impact of each approach through a future pilot study.

Check out the full USDA report.

Learn more about the NCCOR Healthy Food Incentives project.