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Study by UNE faculty on incentive buying published in health care journal

Michele Polacsek is senior author of a new publication in the health care journal Health Affairs
Michele Polacsek is senior author of a new publication in the health care journal Health Affairs

September 05, 2019

Heather Doran is co-author of the article
Heather Doran is co-author of the article

Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.H.S., professor in the Public Health program, is senior author of a new publication in the peer-reviewed health care journal Health Affairs.

The article, titled “Financial Incentives Increase Purchases of Fruit and Vegetables Among Lower-Income Households with Children,” addresses the high cost of fruit and vegetables as a barrier to healthy eating among lower-income households with children.  

Heather Doran, M.S., research associate in the Center for Excellence in Health Innovation, is co-author. 

The authors examined the effects of financial incentives on purchases at a single supermarket. The study focused on primary shoppers from low-income households who had at least one child.

Participants took part in an in-store nutrition event styled after Cooking Matters, a program that empowers families to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals. The event was combined with a double dollar financial incentive.

The study found that incentivized shoppers who were given an immediate 50% discount on qualifying fruit and vegetables increased weekly spending on those items by 27% overall and by 45% for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. The change was almost exclusively for fresh produce.

There was no change in purchases of frozen and canned produce or unhealthy foods.

The findings indicate that incentive programs increase fruit and vegetable purchasing but also suggest that effective complementary approaches are needed to improve diet quality.

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