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In 2009, the US Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) began to provide participants with cash-value vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables ($US 10 for women and $US 6 for children per month). The present paper assesses the potential effects of the new WIC incentives on fruit and vegetable purchases among WIC households in two New England states.
A pre–post assessment of changes in fruit and vegetable purchases after the WIC revisions in generalized estimating equation models.
Scanner data on grocery purchases from a regional supermarket chain in New England, USA.
WIC-participating households (n 2137) that regularly shopped at the chain during January–September 2009 and January–September 2010.
After the WIC revisions, purchases of fresh and frozen vegetables increased in volume by 17·5 % and 27·8 %, respectively. The biggest improvements were observed for fresh fruit, an increase of 28·6 %, adding almost a kilogram of fresh fruits per household per month. WIC households spent three times more of their WIC vouchers on purchasing fresh fruits than fresh vegetables. The magnitudes of substitution effects were relatively small: between 4 % (fresh fruit) and 13 % (canned vegetables) of the amounts purchased in 2009 with non-WIC funds were replaced by purchases made using WIC vouchers in 2010.
The provision of fruit and vegetable benefits in the revised WIC food packages increased overall purchases of fruits and vegetables among WIC-participating households in New England. Efforts to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables by people receiving federal food assistance are paying off.
The present study assessed the impact of the 2009 food packages mandated by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on perceived sales, product selection and stocking habits of small, WIC-authorized food stores.
A cross-sectional study involving in-depth interviews with store managers/owners.
Small, WIC-authorized food stores in eight major cities in the USA.
Fifty-two store managers/owners who had at least 1 year of experience in the store prior to study participation.
The WIC-approved food products (fresh, canned and frozen fruits; fresh, canned and frozen vegetables; wholegrain/whole-wheat bread; white corn/whole-wheat tortillas; brown rice; lower-fat milk (<2 %)) were acquired in multiple ways, although acquisition generally occurred 1–2 times/week. Factors such as customer requests (87 %), refrigerator/freezer availability (65 %) and profitability (71 %) were rated as very important when making stocking decisions. Most managers/owners perceived increases in sales of new WIC-approved foods including those considered most profitable (wholegrain/whole-wheat bread (89 %), lower-fat milk (89 %), white corn/whole wheat tortillas (54 %)), but perceived no changes in sales of processed fruits and vegetables. Supply mechanisms and frequency of supply acquisition were only moderately associated with perceived sales increases.
Regardless of type or frequency of supply acquisition, perceived increases in sales provided some evidence for the potential sustainability of these WIC policy efforts and translation of this policy-based strategy to other health promotion efforts aimed at improving healthy food access in underserved communities.
Non-supermarket food retailers can be a promising channel for increasing the availability of healthy foods in underserved communities. The present paper reports on retailer practices, attitudes and beliefs about the supply of healthy foods before and after the introduction of new subsidies for healthy foods by the US Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in October 2009.
We designed and conducted in-person standardized interviews with store owners and managers to assess perceptions of demand and profits for different foods, supply networks, barriers to stocking healthy foods and their changes following implementation of the new WIC packages.
Non-supermarket retailers in five towns of Connecticut, USA (n 68 in 2009 and n 58 in 2010).
Owners and managers of WIC-authorized and non-WIC convenience stores and non-chain grocery stores.
Retailers identified customer demand as the primary factor in stocking decisions. They reported observing a significantly weaker demand for healthy foods compared with unhealthy foods, although it improved for certain foods with the new WIC subsidies. Less healthy foods were also perceived as more profitable. Supplier networks varied by product from convenient manufacturer delivery for salty snacks to self-supply for produce. WIC retailers were able to quickly adapt and supply healthy foods required under the new WIC programme guidelines.
Retailers other than supermarkets currently perceive little demand for healthy foods, but new WIC subsidies have the power to change these perceptions. Supply barriers seem secondary in the limited offerings of healthy foods by stores and could be overcome when policy changes generate new demand for healthy foods.
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