21 Sep Combination of Restrictions and Incentives May Lead To Better Food Choices By SNAP Beneficiaries
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD | Professor and Director
Nutrition Coordinating Center
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55454-1087
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: There is interest in considering ways to reshape SNAP so that it better meets meet its objective to help families buy the food they need for good health. Prohibiting the purchase of foods such as soft drinks with SNAP benefits is one of the proposed program changes. Offering an incentive for the purchase of fruits and vegetables is another program change that is being discussed.
Little is known about the effects of prohibitions and restrictions on food purchasing and consumption. Consequently, we carried out an experimental trial to evaluate effects.
In our study we found that a food benefit program that includes both prohibitions on the purchase of less nutritious foods and incentives for purchasing nutritious foods may lead to a number of favorable changes in diet.
To elaborate, we found those enrolled in a food benefit program that prohibited the purchase of sugar sweetened beverages, sweet bakes goods, and candies with food program benefits and provided a 30% financial incentive for fruit and vegetable purchases had a number of favorable dietary changes that were significantly different from changes among those enrolled in a food benefit program that had neither prohibitions or incentives. These favorable changes included reduced consumption of calories, sugar sweetened beverages, sweet baked goods, and candies; and increased consumption of fruit. The overall nutritional quality of the diet also improved.
Fewer nutritional improvements were observed among those enrolled in food benefit programs that included prohibitions or incentives only.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Prohibitions and incentives may lead to favorable changes in the diets of adults participating in a food benefit program such as SNAP. But, this study is the first to evaluate prohibitions and it has some limitations (e.g. effects on children not studied, study was not carried out with actual SNAP participants, etc.).
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: More and better research is needed so that policymakers have a solid evidence-base to inform decisions related to food prohibitions and incentives in SNAP.
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