Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Quick Studies

veggies

(Photo: Shutterstock)

‘Eat Your Vegetables’ Is Easier for Low-Income Mothers Who Get Help

• August 08, 2014 • 11:37 AM

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Recent research suggests that if we pay economically disadvantaged women to buy more produce, many will.

Picture the typical farmers’ markets customer and you’ll probably see a highly educated yuppie in a North Face jacket sorting through rutabaga and organic chard, handing over wads of cash in exchange for locally grown produce.

But what if it were easier for low-income families to shop alongside the yuppies? That’s what Carolyn Dimitri, an applied economist at New York University, wanted to know. “The concept is appealing—give people more resources and they will buy more fruits and vegetables,” Dimitri says. “But we wondered if people receiving the incentives were actually buying and eating more fruits and vegetables.”

To find out, Dimitri and her colleagues gave 281 low-income mothers of children between two and 12 years old coded vouchers to use at farmers’ markets—the codes were so the researchers could track their use. Each time the participants went to the farmers’ market and filled out Dimitri’s survey, they got cash. The questionnaire asked about the women’s shopping habits, whether they had visited a food bank recently, and how many fresh vegetables they ate.

Disadvantaged families may eat fewer vegetables not because of preferences or education but because of access.

The researchers chose women in three cities—New York, Boston, and San Diego—and tracked them for six months. Though only 138 of the original 281 participants stuck around for the full study (those who dropped out were older or live where healthy food is hard to come by), respondents reported that the incentives did indeed help them eat more vegetables.

Perhaps even more promising, the study found that the most at-risk women—those who hadn’t graduated high school and those who didn’t eat much produce—had the biggest increase in vegetable consumption after getting financial incentives.

“Prior to analyzing the data,” Dimitri says, “I thought the people who would benefit the most would be the participants with higher levels of education but that was not the case.” This suggests that disadvantaged families may eat fewer vegetables not because of preferences or education but because of access. Beyond access, there are also other compelling arguments to be made about economic scarcity and its psychological effects.

One of the study’s limiting factors is that farmers’ market managers helped recruit participants, so lots of the women surveyed were already farmers’ market devotees and therefore more likely to be interested in eating produce. The researchers suggest this only bolsters their argument about targeting low-income farmers’ market shoppers with these types of incentives.

Another concern is that access to farmers’ markets is limited, even for those who can readily afford their high prices: They happen only seasonally, on limited hours on certain days of the week. And just 25 percent of farmers’ markets in the United States accept food stamps.

Regardless, Dimitri’s results, published in Food Policy in June, make a strong case for the government’s new nutrition incentives program, mandated by the Agricultural Act of 2014.

“Given that fiscal budgets are tight, we thought it was important to understand the effectiveness of nutrition incentives,” Dimitri says. “Our findings suggest that many, but not all, participants in nutrition incentive programs will benefit. That is a very good starting point for a new policy.”


Rosie Spinks contributed reporting.

Avital Andrews
Avital Andrews writes about thought leaders, environmental issues, food, and travel. She also reports for Sierra, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @avitalb.

More From Avital Andrews

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 24 • 4:00 PM

We Need to Normalize Drug Use in Our Society

After the disastrous misconceptions of the 20th century, we’re returning to the idea that drugs are an ordinary part of life experience and no more cause addiction than do other behaviors. This is rational and welcome.


October 24 • 2:00 PM

A Letter to the Next Attorney General: Fix Presidential Pardons

More than two years ago, a series showed that white applicants were far more likely to receive clemency than comparable applicants who were black. Since then, the government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a study, but the pardons system remains unchanged.


October 24 • 12:00 PM

What Makes You So Smart, Middle School Math Teacher?

Noah Davis talks to Vern Williams about what makes middle school—yes, middle school—so great.


October 24 • 10:00 AM

Why DNA Is One of Humanity’s Greatest Inventions

How we’ve co-opted our genetic material to change our world.


October 24 • 8:00 AM

What Do Clowns Think of Clowns?

Three major players weigh in on the current state of the clown.


October 24 • 7:13 AM

There Is No Surge in Illegal Immigration

The overall rate of illegal immigration has actually decreased significantly in the last 10 years. The time is ripe for immigration reform.


October 24 • 6:15 AM

Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.


October 24 • 5:00 AM

Why We Gossip: It’s Really All About Ourselves

New research from the Netherlands finds stories we hear about others help us determine how we’re doing.


October 24 • 2:00 AM

Congratulations, Your City Is Dying!

Don’t take population numbers at face value.


October 23 • 4:00 PM

Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies somewhere in between.


October 23 • 2:00 PM

American Companies Are Getting Way Too Cozy With the National Security Agency

Newly released documents describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives.


October 23 • 12:00 PM

The Man Who’s Quantifying New York City

Noah Davis talks to the proprietor of I Quant NY. His methodology: a little something called “addition.”


October 23 • 11:02 AM

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.


October 23 • 10:00 AM

The Psychology of Bribery and Corruption

An FBI agent offered up confidential information about a political operative’s enemy in exchange for cash—and they both got caught. What were they thinking?


October 23 • 8:00 AM

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

What it means to feel a little excited about the prospect of a horrific event.


October 23 • 7:04 AM

Why Don’t Men Read Romance Novels?

A lot of men just don’t read fiction, and if they do, structural misogyny drives them away from the genre.


October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


Follow us


Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.