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Participant Satisfaction with a Food Benefit Program with Restrictions and Incentives

Published:October 27, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2017.08.010

      Abstract

      Background

      Policy makers are considering changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Proposed changes include financially incentivizing the purchase of healthier foods and prohibiting the use of funds for purchasing foods high in added sugars. SNAP participant perspectives may be useful in understanding the consequences of these proposed changes.

      Objective

      To determine whether food restrictions and/or incentives are acceptable to food benefit program participants.

      Design

      Data were collected as part of an experimental trial in which lower-income adults were randomly assigned to one of four financial food benefit conditions: (1) Incentive: 30% financial incentive on eligible fruits and vegetables purchased using food benefits; (2) Restriction: not allowed to buy sugar-sweetened beverages, sweet baked goods, or candies with food benefits; (3) Incentive plus Restriction; or (4) Control: no incentive/restriction. Participants completed closed- and open-ended questions about their perceptions on completion of the 12-week program.

      Participants/setting

      Adults eligible or nearly eligible for SNAP were recruited between 2013 and 2015 by means of events or flyers in the Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, metropolitan area. Of the 279 individuals who completed baseline measures, 265 completed follow-up measures and are included in these analyses.

      Statistical analysis

      χ2 analyses were conducted to assess differences in program satisfaction. Responses to open-ended questions were qualitatively analyzed using principles of content analysis.

      Results

      There were no statistically significant or meaningful differences between experimental groups in satisfaction with the program elements evaluated in the study. Most participants in all conditions found the food program helpful in buying nutritious foods (94.1% to 98.5%) and in buying the kinds of foods they wanted (85.9% to 95.6%). Qualitative data suggested that most were supportive of restrictions, although a few were dissatisfied. Participants were uniformly supportive of incentives.

      Conclusions

      Findings suggest a food benefit program that includes incentives for purchasing fruits and vegetables and/or restrictions on the use of program funds for purchasing foods high in added sugars appears to be acceptable to most participants.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      S. A. Rydell is a project coordinator, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

      Biography

      R. M. Turner is a staff member, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

      Biography

      T. A. Lasswell is a research assistant, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

      Biography

      S. A. French is a professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

      Biography

      J. M. Oakes is a professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

      Biography

      L. J. Harnack is a professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

      Biography

      B. Elbel is an associate professor, School of Medicine and Wagner School of Public Service, and director, Langone Health Comprehensive Program on Obesity, New York University, New York.