Objective: To determine if price is a barrier to fruit and vegetable consumption for low-income families by comparing the average cost of a market basket of fruits and vegetables from the Thrifty Food Plan and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (2005 Dietary Guidelines), investigating variations in price by neighborhood income and by type of supermarket, and estimating the influence of a 2005 Dietary Guidelines fruit and vegetable basket on the food budget of a low-income family.
Design: A market basket survey was conducted at 25 supermarkets across three time periods to allow for seasonal variation in produce prices.
Setting: Stores were selected from census tracts with a variety of income levels in Sacramento, CA, and Los Angeles, CA.
Main outcome measures: The average cost of a Thrifty Food Plan and 2005 Dietary Guidelines market basket for fruits and vegetables.
Statistical analyses performed: Student t tests were used to compare the mean cost of market baskets.
Results: The 2005 Dietary Guidelines market basket cost 4% less than the Thrifty Food Plan (P<0.001), and was significantly less expensive in low-income areas at 65 dollars (P<0.05), and in bulk supermarkets at 59 dollars (P<0.05). The 2005 Dietary Guidelines market basket would require a low-income family to devote 43% to 70% of their food budget to fruits and vegetables.
Conclusions: Public policies should examine ways to make fruits and vegetables more affordable to low-income families.