Healthy Foods, Healthy Families: combining incentives and exposure interventions at urban farmers' markets to improve nutrition among recipients of US federal food assistance

April B Bowling, Mikayla Moretti, Kayla Ringelheim, Alvin Tran, Kirsten Davison
Health Promotion Perspectives 2016, 6 (1): 10-6

BACKGROUND: Healthy Foods, Healthy Families (HFHF) is a fruit and vegetable (F&V) exposure/incentive program implemented at farmers' markets in low-income neighborhoods, targeting families receiving US federal food assistance. We examined program effects on participants' diet and associations between attendance, demographics and dietary change.

METHODS: Exposure activities included F&V tastings and cooking demonstrations. Incentives included 40% F&V bonus for electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card users and $20 for use purchasing F&V at every third market visit. Self-report surveys measuring nutritional behaviors/literacy were administered to participants upon enrollment (n = 425, 46.2% Hispanic, 94.8%female). Participants were sampled for follow-up at markets during mid-season (n = 186) and at season end (n = 146). Attendance was tracked over 16 weeks.

RESULTS: Participants post-intervention reported significantly higher vegetable consumption(P = 0.005) and lower soda consumption (P = 0.005). Participants reporting largest F&V increases attended the market 6-8 times and received $40 in incentives. No change in food assistance spent on F&V (P = 0.94); 70% reported significant increases in family consumption of F&V,indicating subsidies increased overall F&V purchasing. Participants reported exposure activities and incentives similarly affected program attendance.

CONCLUSION: Interventions combining exposure activities and modest financial incentives at farmers' markets in low-income neighborhoods show strong potential to improve diet quality of families receiving federal food assistance.

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