Eating Healthier on Food Stamps

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Daphina Jacobs bags up fresh vegetables at the Hattie Carthan Community Market in Brooklyn July 11, 2009. Advocacy groups arranged for the use of food stamps at the market for the first time. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

One reason fast food is such an appealing option for so many Americans is because it’s often significantly cheaper than fresh, healthy equivalents.  

A new study from the Hamilton Project offers one model of how to change that. After running a series of pilots in Massachusetts, it is calling for a radical overhaul of the SNAP program with a greater focus on healthy food.

By offering food stamp users a rebate of 30 cents for every dollar of fresh fruits and vegetables they purchased, the researchers were able to incentivize food stamp users to eat more vegetables and fruits by a full 25 percent.

Diane Schanzenbach, Associate Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University authored the study. She joins The Takeaway to discuss her findings and whether this type of study could be used in a broader way.


Diane Schanzenbach

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [5]


Incentives are necessary to motivate people to buy fresh food. If you are not used to buying it, much will go to waste, because it must be consumed quickly or loses freshness, looks bad, tastes bad, and won't be eaten. Saving $.30 isn't a savings at all if what you buy goes uneaten.

Interesting, that farmers who make little on fresh produce are the ones who are giving the "fruits of their labor" over for savings. When Fast Food Corporations get to keep their cheap labor, and serve poor quality food.

Also, the FDA gave permission to re-buy processed chicken from China.

Yep! It's grown in the US, shipped to China, and then sold back to us to make it all the cheaper for purchasing. Fast Food Chains are backed by our government and have no incentive to include healthy choices on their menu.

We got hight levels of mercury contaminated apple juice from China, and tainted baby formula, and toothpaste ~ not to mention dog and cat food. They have had dead, bloated pigs (100s!) floating in their rivers, but no one knows why, or who, or how they got there, and little is done to figure it out. Yet, they are worried that our beef may have, Mad Cow. Geez! Talk about a ploy!

Our government protects Big Business with tax loop holes, and leaves "the poor" vulnerable to all sorts of contamination. Congress won't pass the, Farm Bill because Republicans want to cut Food Stamps, and yet consumers are to believe there's a program that gives inceptive to buying fresh healthy produce WITH FOOD STAMPS, and local farmers are supposed to support it, HAPPILY.

Sounds like a, no-brainer to me.

Dec. 11 2013 02:51 PM
kevin lonie from bedford nh

I liked this program. One question. WHY is the potatoe left out? We were poor growing up and had potatoes a lot. They were cheap and pretty good.

Dec. 10 2013 09:31 AM
Jackson Rolett from Bowling Green, KY

In Bowling Green, KY, Community Farmers Market has launched a Double Dollar Program that partners with local organizations to double the purchasing power of participants SNAP and WIC benefits. Not only is the money going to increase healthy food access to low-income families, but also directly supports our regional agricultural economy by going straight to the small, local farmers.

Dec. 05 2013 01:28 PM
gary from athens, ohio

Why not just give them a coupon that could ONLY be used for fruits and vegetables? Then save your rebate money. Good for budget, nutrition and everyone.

Dec. 05 2013 12:26 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

A cheap fast food healthy menu could happen. Look at the success of Trader Joe's and their quality and pricing on healthy foods

Dec. 05 2013 12:12 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.