A study done by University of Wyoming researchers and a food justice non-profit shows some evidence that farmers market coupon programs for low-income people can improve fruit and vegetable consumption.
It took place at the Wyoming Food For Thought Project's summer farmers market in Casper.
The study compared three groups of participants who all received $80 in coupons to spend over five weeks at the farmers market. One group didn't receive their coupons until the end, one group's coupons only worked for fruits and vegetables, and the final group could use their coupons on anything eligible through the SNAP program at the market.
Christine Porter, UW professor and one of the study's author, said all groups were surveyed before and after the study and they all improved food security and their fruit and vegetable consumption.
"So the people who got fruit and vegetable coupons, both were recorded as buying more fruits and the survey showed they ate more fruit," Porter said. "Whereas the SNAP coupon people bought more vegetables and increased their vegetable consumption more. And when we asked them about it at the end, they're like, 'Well, I bought vegetables as they were cheaper per serving than fruits. And it left me money to buy meat milk bread. And I could make a complete meal.'"
Porter said this research shows that these coupon programs don't have to solely focus on fruit and vegetables and can be more flexible for people to choose what to buy.
"It makes more sense to give people coupons to buy the groceries they need and not have it just be fruits and vegetables," she said. "With this, at least preliminary, results suggest that you can give people grocery coupons and they will increase the fruit and vegetable consumption, even though they could also have used it to buy desserts."
Jamie Purcell, Wyoming Food For Thought Project Founder and Executive Director, said there's a misconception that low-income and food insecure people can't afford to shop at farmer's markets.
"When we started the project, we really wanted to prove to ourselves and prove to our community that SNAP users could shop in our farmers market and could actually get decent food with their money," she said.
Porter added they are applying for a grant to do a larger-scale version of the study across farmers markets in Wyoming.
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