April 17, 2019
A research article by Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.H.S., professor in the Public Health program, was recently selected as the 2019 Best Article by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. As lead author, Polacsek will receive a $1,000 prize and will be presented with a plaque at the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior’s annual conference, where she will give an invited talk about her research.
The paper, titled “A Supermarket Double-Dollar Incentive Program Increases Purchases of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Among Low-Income Families With Children: The Healthy Double Study,” reported the results of a pilot study that sought to determine whether a supermarket double-dollar fruit and vegetable incentive program would increase fruit and vegetable purchases among low-income families, including those enrolled in the state of Maine’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.
In the randomized controlled study, purchases were tracked using a loyalty card that provided grocery shoppers with a 5 percent discount on all purchases during a three-month period. This baseline period was followed by a four-month intervention period in which half of the 401 low-income supermarket customers participating in the study were given a same-day coupon at checkout for half-price on all fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (up to $10 per shopping trip).
Polacsek and her research team found that the half-off intervention increased total weekly fruits and vegetables spending among low-income shoppers compared with the control population and that SNAP shoppers, in particular, experienced the greatest fruit and vegetable spending increases. The research team, therefore, concluded that “financial incentives are an effective strategy for food assistance programs to increase healthy purchases and improve dietary intake in low-income families.”
According to the article, low-income families spend less money on fruits and vegetables per person than higher-income families. While nutrition assistance programs, like Maine’s SNAP, seek to lessen food insecurity and improve nutrition, some studies have shown that SNAP participants are more likely than low-income non-participants to suffer from obesity and other health risks.
The 2019 Best Article was s elected on a variety of criteria, including the importance of the problem addressed, the contribution to knowledge of the problem, innovativeness and creativity, the quality of the research design, and the quality of the writing and presentation of the article.