The Role of Farmers' Market Incentives on the Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Food Security Status of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participants
AbstractSocioeconomic status strongly impacts food choices and eating patterns of both adults and children. Low-income individuals tend to eat diets high in calories and fat, and low in nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables. Barriers such as cost, access, availability, and knowledge are commonly reported reasons for limited intake of fruits and vegetables. Low-income individuals are more likely to experience food insecurity, which can also limit the consumption of nutrient dense foods. As a result, low-income individuals are at an increased risk for obesity and chronic diseases. Farmers’ market incentives were found to significantly increase food security status among program participants and although fruit and vegetable consumption among those participants did increase, the change was not statistically significant for fruit and most types of vegetables. However, mean carotenoid levels were found to increase among participants who received an 8-week intervention that included weekly farmers’ market incentives. Data collected through qualitative interviews indicates that farmers’ market incentives helped participants overcome barriers associated with poor fruit and vegetable intake. Furthermore, parents expressed value in the opportunity for children to select, purchase, prepare, and consume fruit and vegetables purchased at the farmers’ market. However, qualitative and quantitative data suggest that farmers’ market incentive programs would have greater participation if individuals were not required to match their federal nutrition assistance benefits. Further research should be conducted using a completely randomized design and larger sample sizes to determine changes in fruit and vegetable intake among participants of farmers’ market incentive programs. The combination of nutrition education and farmers’ market incentives should be investigated to determine if program participants would further benefit from a combination of two intervention strategies.