Evaluating a USDA program that gives SNAP participants financial incentives to buy fresh produce in supermarkets

November 1, 2019
Source: Health Affairs
Author: Pasquale E. Rummo, Danton Noriega, Alex Parret, Matthew Harding, Oran Hesterman, and Brian E. Elbel

Pricing incentives may reduce disparities in obesity among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by increasing fruit and vegetable purchases. However, few studies have evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of those incentives in supermarkets, as opposed to farmers markets. In 2015 and 2016, as part of a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program, a dollar-matching program in Michigan provided SNAP participants with a subsidy on fresh produce purchases. Using data on millions of individual transactions from thirty-two stores, we found that SNAP participants’ spending on fresh produce was significantly higher at stores that implemented the subsidy than at control stores during both intervention periods (7.4 percent and 2.2 percent higher in 2015 and 2016, respectively). Our results highlight the effectiveness and feasibility of dollar-matching programs for fruit and vegetable purchases by SNAP participants who shop at supermarkets, and they support the USDA’s expansion of existing programs to that setting in additional states.

First published in Health Affairs in November 2019.