VOLUME 22 #3

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Families encouraged to SNAP up healthy foods

forks with pieces healthy food

RESEARCH | Imagine that you have a monthly food budget of $133—less than $40 a week. When trying to feed your family, you might decide to purchase a 2-liter bottle of fruity punch for 99 cents instead of a gallon of milk for $3.50.

That’s hardly a healthy alternative, but it is the choice that 47 million Americans participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) make just to ensure they have enough food on their table.

Allison Karpyn, formerly of The Food Trust and now associate director of UD’s Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, is a co-author of a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report that explores incentives designed to encourage SNAP participants to make healthier food choices.

“People know it’s better to eat healthy, but many SNAP participants are working families who need quick and cheap alternatives,” Karpyn says. “They often grab the first thing they see on the shelf that’s on sale.”

Unfortunately, these alternatives are typically higher in fat, sugar and salt, making them filling but not nutritious.

Two possible solutions to the problem are now under review for pilot testing. One calls for grocery stores to highlight healthier foods in more prominent locations. The other approach would encourage manufacturers to offer discount coupons to SNAP participants who purchase healthy foods, earning themselves credits to buy more food at the end of the month.

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