Objective: This project aims to evaluate the success of a financial incentive combined with a point of purchase educational program to promote fruit and vegetable (FV) purchases and consumption in a supermarket setting among low-income and SNAP-eligible families and children living in a rural Maine community. Lessons learned from the research will inform the development of resources, training, professional practice and improved end user experience and behavior.
Description: The project uses a double value coupon incentive program combined with Cooking Matters at the Store education to incentivize the purchase and consumption of fresh produce, and healthful frozen and canned FV (without syrup or salt), nutrient-rich and affordable year-round alternatives to fresh produce. Education and extension efforts based on our study findings will contribute to meeting USDA Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area Goals. The project team partnered with a large national retail grocery chain, Cooking Matters, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, eXtension Communities of Practice, Maine SNAP-Ed, and The Food Trust.
Evaluation: We used a randomized controlled study enrolling customers from a low-income rural Maine supermarket. A double value incentive for fresh, frozen or canned FV and opportunities to participate in Cooking Matters station-style education while shopping was provided to a randomly-selected intervention arm for 6 months after three months of baseline tracking. We used sales data to compare weekly FV sales pre to post intervention, and between intervention and control arms. FV consumption among participants and an index child was measured using a self-administered Food Frequency Questionnaire. All research, education and extension activities will be monitored.
Conclusions and Implications: The research phase of our project provides important information for policymakers interested in SNAP. Financial incentives combined with supermarket education has the potential to improve FV purchases and consumption. However, participation and scalability of the educational component remain a challenge.
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