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  • Einstein Study Finds Financial Incentives Encourage Healthier Food Purchases

    Published: 03/18/2014

    Researchers at Einstein Healthcare Network’s Center for Urban Health Policy and Research worked with The Fresh Grocer in Philadelphia to design and implement a study to determine the effect of financial incentives on encouraging healthier food purchases by lower income families. The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program.

    While other studies have focused on participants enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), Einstein researchers enrolled SNAP and non-SNAP households and analyzed purchases using all forms of payment. Participants’ store loyalty card numbers were used as unique identifiers to relate purchases to individual study households.

    Households received a rebate of 50% of the dollar amount spent on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables that was added to a supermarket gift card, along with a tailored monthly report showing their purchases and dollars earned. They also received monthly newsletters with practical information about how to select and prepare produce. The study found that families enrolled in the study bought, on average, 10 more servings of fruit and vegetables per week than families who had not yet started the study. Close to half of the households that had not yet begun the study purchased less than two servings of vegetables and little to no fruit per week.

    In the longitudinal (over time) analyses, the rebate amount was reduced to 25% and then eliminated. Researchers found that produce purchases reverted to close to baseline levels, suggesting that the decreased amount was not enough to continue to stimulate purchase and/or maintain interest in the study.

    “We have shown that a sufficient level of incentive can kick-start change. Many households reported buying more and different produce than they had done before, and that is an important start,” said Etienne Phipps, PhD, Director of Einstein’s Center for Urban Health Policy and Research and lead author of the report which was published in The American Journal of Public Health on March 13.

    “We already know there are profound societal benefits to making healthier food choices more accessible to lower-income families. We need pricing strategies that are sustainable over the long-term and that engage supermarkets, food suppliers and manufacturers in efforts to make healthier foods more affordable for households with limited financial resources,” adds Dr. Phipps.

    About the Center for Urban Health Policy and Research

    The Center for Urban Health Policy and Research at Einstein Healthcare Network, established in 2001, studies, demonstrates, supports and champions ways to improve the delivery of healthcare and promote wellbeing to diverse, urban underserved communities.

    About The Fresh Grocer

    The Fresh Grocer, now part of the Wakefern Family, is a supermarket chain specializing in providing high quality perishables in urban and suburban environments with seven stores in PA, DE, NJ Tri-State area. The Fresh Grocer is committed to improving food access and to promoting the health and wellness of its customers, associates, and communities.

  • Communications Team