SNAP Participants Improved Food Security And Diet After A Full-Service Supermarket Opened In An Urban Food Desert

Published in: Health Affairs, Volume 39, No. 8 (August 2020). doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01309

Posted on RAND.org on September 24, 2020

by Jonathan Cantor, Robin L. Beckman, Rebecca L. Collins, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Andrea Richardson, Tamara Dubowitz

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest US food and nutrition assistance program, tasked with improving food security among low-income households. Another federal effort to improve food access is the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which invested tens of millions of dollars to incentivize healthy food retail outlets in areas lacking access to nutritious, fresh food. We explore the intersection of these programs, testing the impact of a new, HFFI-financed full-service supermarket on SNAP participants in an urban food desert. After the supermarket's opening, SNAP participants' food security improved and intake of added sugars declined in the intervention neighborhood, but both were unchanged in a comparison neighborhood without a new supermarket. Intervention neighborhood participants also experienced relative declines in the percentage of daily calories from solid fats, alcoholic beverages, and added sugars. Our findings suggest that HFFI amplifies the effects of SNAP participation on improving food security and dietary quality in food deserts.

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