Promoting Positive Nutrition Outcomes: The Evidence for Taxes, Transfers, Subsidies, and “Nudges”
(Poverty and Income Policy)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
To promote health, prevent chronic disease, and maintain a healthy weight, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a balanced diet that maximizes nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy and minimizes foods high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. Despite these recommendations, many Americans overconsume “unhealthy” foods and underconsume “healthy” foods. As a result, the prevalence of diet-related illnesses such as type-2 diabetes are on the rise, and the prevalence of obesity among adults and children is high. Medical expenditures associated with obesity-related illnesses are nontrivial and are often incurred by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid. Policymakers at the federal, state and local levels seek solutions to improve population weight outcomes. This panel will present the evidence for four separate policy levers used to improve healthy eating behaviors: taxes, transfers, subsidies and “behavioral nudges”.
Sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption has been linked to obesity. To curb SSB consumption, several localities have levied taxes on the purchase of SSBs. The first paper presented in the panel will describe the experience of Oakland, CA when it introduced a $0.015 per ounce tax on SSBs. The authors will present their results examining the impact of the tax on SSB purchases and consumption.
In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). HHFKA provided mandatory funding for USDA to test innovative strategies to end child hunger and food insecurity through the Demonstration Projects to End Childhood Hunger. Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services received a grant to implement a home delivery food program to households with children who qualified for free meals. The authors will present the results of a rigorous randomized control trial that was used to examine the impact of the program on food insecurity, diet quality, household food spending, and nutrition program participation.
The 2014 Farm Bill established the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program. Through FINI, USDA provided $86.1 million in grants to organizations to design and implement projects to increase fruit and vegetable purchases among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by providing incentives at the point of purchase. Incentives were offered at variety of SNAP retailers from farmers markets to grocery stores to mobile markets and often were in the form of a double dollar coupon or discount. The authors will present the results from a quasi-experimental design that was used to assess the impacts of FINI on fruit and vegetable purchases and consumption.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides nutrition benefits to roughly 7 million individuals each year. WIC participants receive a monthly benefit to purchase specific foods tailored to their nutritional needs. Research has shown that approximately 20 percent of WIC benefits go unredeemed. To improve redemption rates and the purchase of healthy products, the final paper will present results from an intervention at two New Mexico stores that streamlined the purchasing process and allowed cashiers to engage in suggestive selling of healthy WIC-approved fruits and vegetables stored conveniently by the checkout lanes.