Experts agree that one aspect of health disparities in poorer communities is linked the lack of affordable access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and other hallmarks of healthy nutrition.
But, according to a new study, a new food concept may help relieve this problem, thus expanding the world of healthy eating to at-need families.
Essentially, providing low-income families vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets could increase consumption of healthier foods.
According to study findings, people who were given the vouchers were found to increase their produce consumption. In fact, study participants with less education consumed the most significant amounts.
“In terms of healthy food options, farmers’ market incentives may be able to bring a low-income person onto the same playing field as those with greater means,” study author Carolyn Dimitri, an associate professor of food studies at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said in a university news release.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (previously known as food stamps) are accepted at one in four farmers’ markets in the United States. The researchers pointed out these benefits normally can be used to buy any type of food, including ice cream or soda. Some local governments and nonprofit organizations, however, have started offering vouchers that low-income families can use at farmers’ markets.
Unlike SNAP benefits, these vouchers can only be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables – thus leading to healthier diets.
Although farmers’ markets can help low-income families gain better access to fresh produce, they can’t be the sole source of healthy foods because they are not open every day and closed in winter, the authors added.
The study findings were published online July 24 in Food Policy.