Incentive Program Encourages Use of Farmers’ Markets

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People who were given incentives to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets were more likely to frequent these markets and purchased greater quantities of farmers’ market foods, according to a study from researchers at Abt Associates and others published today in the journal Public Health Nutrition. However, researchers found mixed evidence as to whether the program influenced participants to eat more fruits and vegetables.

People who were given incentives to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets in low-income New York City neighborhoods were more likely to frequent these markets and purchased greater quantities of farmers’ market foods, according to a study published today in the journal Public Health Nutrition. However, researchers found mixed evidence as to whether the program influenced participants to eat more fruits and vegetables – one of the initiative’s main goals.

The study examined the effects of the Health Bucks initiative, which provides $2 coupons redeemable for the purchase of fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets. The Health Bucks program is aimed at increasing fresh fruit and vegetable consumption and expanding access to locally grown produce in farmers’ markets in low-income neighborhoods. The researchers surveyed 2,287 farmers’ market shoppers and 1,025 local neighborhood residents to examine whether Health Bucks improved access to and awareness of farmers’ markets, and increased the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables among low-income populations. In addition, the researchers used the results of an ongoing community health survey in New York City neighborhoods to examine longer-term trends in fruit and vegetable consumption.

Participants in the Health Bucks program had greater awareness of farmers’ markets, increased frequency and amount of farmers’ market purchases, and had a greater likelihood of a self-reported year-over-year increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. Finally, although city-wide self-reported consumption of fruits and vegetables increased over time, according to a separate community health survey of more than 35,000 residents, the researchers found no evidence that fruit and vegetable consumption rose more quickly in Health Bucks neighborhoods as compared to other neighborhoods after the program was introduced.

“While there is promising evidence that farmers’ market incentive programs can improve short-term outcomes such as awareness and use of farmers’ markets, more research is needed to determine whether these programs increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and, ultimately, overall health,” said Abt Associates’ Lauren Olsho, the study’s lead author.

Other authors include Jan Jernigan and Gayle Payne of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Sabrina Baronberg and Alyson Abrami, formerly of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Physical Activity and Nutrition Program; and Deborah Klein Walker, a Senior Fellow at Abt Associates.

For a full copy of the study, visit: journals.cambridge.org/phn/farmersmarket

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries. http://www.abtassociates.com

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Caroline Broder
Abt Associates
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