Changes to food stamp program could improve recipients' health

Changing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to prohibit the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages with food stamps and provide subsidies for fruit and vegetable purchases could improve public health, according to a study by Stanford University and UC-San Francisco researchers.

Details of Study
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program funded the study, which was published in Health Affairs.  Researchers used information from existing databases to create a model detailing SNAP recipients’:

Food purchases; Food consumption; and Purchasing choices and trade-offs.
The researchers then evaluated how those factors would change when:
A rule banned the use of food stamps to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages; and
A program allowed users to recoup 30% of the costs of fruits and vegetables.
Findings
The study found that a ban on purchasing soda with food stamps would prompt SNAP participants to increase fruit juice purchases. However, their average net caloric intake would only decline by about 11.4 calories per day from the change and their average glycemic load would decline by 2.7 grams per day.

According to the study, over a decade:
Recipients would lose an average of 1.15 pounds as a result of such a ban; and
There would be a 1.7% decrease in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes among recipients.

Meanwhile, the study found that implementing subsidies for fruit and vegetable purchases would increase recipients’ intake of such foods by about one-fourth of a cup daily, increasing the number of SNAP participants who eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables from 1.3% to 3.4%. However, the policy would have no effect on obesity or Type 2 diabetes rates, according to researchers.