Michigan recently adopted an incentive program to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants buy fresh produce, and University of Michigan researchers recently sought to determine how it affects purchases.
The Double Up Food Bucks initiative -- which matches up to $20 of SNAP money per visit for fresh produce purchases -- began in Detroit in 2009 and now operates statewide, according to a University of Michigan press release. Consequently, University of Michigan staff performed a study focusing on farmers markets to ascertain how the program affects underserved families regarding their nutritional choices.
“Diet-related diseases are disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities,” Dr. Alicia Cohen, a clinical lecturer in the University of Michigan’s Department of Family Medicine and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, said in the release. “One of the major barriers to eating more healthfully is cost.”
Cohen, whose team assessed SNAP enrollment and Double Up transactions along with residential proximity to grocery stores, said their findings require refinement but indicate that numbers may actually exceed what has been recorded.
“Incentive programs are a promising way to increase healthy food access,” Cohen said. “But more research is needed to better understand how to improve outreach and reduce barriers to use. Finding a way to address barriers can help maximize the impact of these programs among Americans at greatest risk of diet-related disease.”