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USDA Reduces Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Costs for Low-Income Households

August 24, 2010
Food Stamps

Image by NCReedplayer via Flickr

Starting with a pilot program in Massachusetts, the USDA will test whether healthy eating can be encouraged via incentives for households that use food stamps (which aren’t called that anymore, but no one knows that).

Participants will receive a 30% rebate on the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The experiment is interesting because the government chose to incentivize healthy eating instead of enforcing healthy choices via restriction. Much like the parallel program for women and children, the USDA could have limited food stamp coverage to pre-approved foods (like dietary staples and whole foods).

One of the issues with successful introduction of fresh foods to low-income households is that many have limited access to supermarkets through rural location and/or lack of transportation in what are known as “food deserts.”

This is a great start towards encouraging increased fruit and vegetable intake. Not only can this help get people used to eating fresh foods who otherwise might default to cheaper processed foods, over time increases in consumption will encourage production and distribution in areas where access is currently limited.

I really hope this takes off and that the program can be expanded geographically, perhaps adding educational components to help people select and prepare the right mix of foods for family health.

Do you think the government is doing enough to encourage healthy eating? What other programs might help improve the American diet? Do you think these changes to the food stamp program will have an impact?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2010 7:22 pm

    Wow, I wish you had done this post a few days ago. We just did our radio show on Sunday about the economic issues related to fitness and good health. We discussed how financial standing affected access. I’m sure we’ll find something of yours to quote in future.

    As to the gov’t, yes, I think the reward program will be successful. People do know the problem and want to improve; they just need a bit of help.

  2. August 24, 2010 8:03 pm

    Oh bummer. Is there an audio archive we can listen to?

    I have a couple of friends who work at food banks and access is a real issue. There are people who are limited to finding groceries at what we would consider convenience stores.

    Ironically, a lot of the foods that make up a solid nutritional foundation – dried beans, whole grains, seasonal fruit and veg – can be the most affordable choices if consumers are educated in preparation.

    We just need to get these foods to people and teach the people how to use them!

  3. August 24, 2010 8:22 pm

    Hi Eat, Walk, Live! Kymberly here, the other (many say “preferred” half of Fun and Fit). I definitely appreciated your link to the definition of a food desert. Have not heard that phrase before. And you have a teeny weeny typo in there that made me laugh – so maybe keep it. Your link says “food desserts.” Well, fruit can be considered a dessert, so there! As for a link to our radio show, I am working on paring down from the 3 hour show to our 15 minutes. Besides our mom, who wants to wade through 3 hours?. Sigh,,,,,, not even our mom come to think of it.

  4. August 25, 2010 7:53 am

    Ugh. I knew someone had to have seen that even though I fixed it 5 seconds after posting. I would rather think about food desserts anyway, specifically cheesecake…

    …oooh, sorry I got distracted. Please come back and post the link when it’s ready!

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Hannah

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