The Effect of Food Price on Food Insecurity and Diet Quality: Exploring Potential Moderating Roles of Consumer Competency
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Consumer competency measures include consumers’ money management skills, nutrition knowledge, and general consumer effectiveness in shopping behavior. Food acquisition and purchase records from household food books evaluated against dietary guidelines are used to construct diet quality measures. Local cost of Thrifty Food Plan and prices of aggregate food groups as well as other information about local food environment are obtained from the geographic component of the data. Regression models include a series of interaction terms to test how consumer competency moderates the effect of local price. Program participation is instrumented by state policy variables to avoid endogeneity bias. Fixed effect terms are included to account for unobserved regional variations in consumption environment and lifestyle.
This study speaks to the adequacy of SNAP benefits and the possibility of indexing benefits based on cost of living, and it also has direct implications on the current policy focus that targets better understanding of program participants’ food buying behavior and knowledge. Findings shed light on whether the current program lacks a system that equips or incentivizes participants to become competent consumers who make efficient and healthful use of program benefits when faced with adverse market conditions. With the debate around nutrition education versus incentives or choice-based interventions, improved understanding of the program participants' knowledge and behaviors enables better-informed policy choice.