Food Stamps, the Thrifty Food Plan, and meal preparation: the importance of the time dimension for US nutrition policy

J Nutr Educ Behav. Jul-Aug 2007;39(4):226-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2007.04.180.


The Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) has a unique role in US Nutrition Policy, integrating both dietary guidance and antihunger policies. Not only are food items in the TFP market basket chosen based on the latest dietary recommendations, but the Plan serves as the basis for inflation adjustments to Food Stamp allotments. To be economical, the TFP logically assumes that most dishes are prepared from raw ingredients. This assumption likely contradicts welfare policy, which promotes increased labor force participation of low-income women. This article presents empirical evidence on meal preparation times in US households and compares this evidence to the TFP implicit assumptions about food preparation. The trade-offs between time and money inputs used in the preparation of meals are discussed using the economist's household production approach. Implications of policy contradictions are explored, as well as related needs for research and practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cooking / methods*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Food / economics*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Poverty*
  • Public Assistance*
  • Time Factors
  • United States