Participant Satisfaction with a Food Benefit Program with Restrictions and Incentives

Sarah A. Rydell, Rachael M. Turner, Tessa A. Lasswell, Simone A. French, J. Michael Oakes, Brian Elbel, Lisa J. Harnack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Policy makers are considering changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Proposed changes include financially incentivizing the purchase of healthier foods and prohibiting the use of funds for purchasing foods high in added sugars. SNAP participant perspectives may be useful in understanding the consequences of these proposed changes. Objective: To determine whether food restrictions and/or incentives are acceptable to food benefit program participants. Design: Data were collected as part of an experimental trial in which lower-income adults were randomly assigned to one of four financial food benefit conditions: (1) Incentive: 30% financial incentive on eligible fruits and vegetables purchased using food benefits; (2) Restriction: not allowed to buy sugar-sweetened beverages, sweet baked goods, or candies with food benefits; (3) Incentive plus Restriction; or (4) Control: no incentive/restriction. Participants completed closed- and open-ended questions about their perceptions on completion of the 12-week program. Participants/setting: Adults eligible or nearly eligible for SNAP were recruited between 2013 and 2015 by means of events or flyers in the Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, metropolitan area. Of the 279 individuals who completed baseline measures, 265 completed follow-up measures and are included in these analyses. Statistical analysis: χ2 analyses were conducted to assess differences in program satisfaction. Responses to open-ended questions were qualitatively analyzed using principles of content analysis. Results: There were no statistically significant or meaningful differences between experimental groups in satisfaction with the program elements evaluated in the study. Most participants in all conditions found the food program helpful in buying nutritious foods (94.1% to 98.5%) and in buying the kinds of foods they wanted (85.9% to 95.6%). Qualitative data suggested that most were supportive of restrictions, although a few were dissatisfied. Participants were uniformly supportive of incentives. Conclusions: Findings suggest a food benefit program that includes incentives for purchasing fruits and vegetables and/or restrictions on the use of program funds for purchasing foods high in added sugars appears to be acceptable to most participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-300
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Food restrictions/incentives
  • Food stamp program
  • Policy change
  • Public opinion
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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