Incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jan;18(1):33-41. doi: 10.1017/S1368980014000512. Epub 2014 May 9.


Objective: In 2009, the US Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) began to provide participants with cash-value vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables ($US 10 for women and $US 6 for children per month). The present paper assesses the potential effects of the new WIC incentives on fruit and vegetable purchases among WIC households in two New England states.

Design: A pre-post assessment of changes in fruit and vegetable purchases after the WIC revisions in generalized estimating equation models.

Setting: Scanner data on grocery purchases from a regional supermarket chain in New England, USA.

Subjects: WIC-participating households (n 2137) that regularly shopped at the chain during January-September 2009 and January-September 2010.

Results: After the WIC revisions, purchases of fresh and frozen vegetables increased in volume by 17·5 % and 27·8 %, respectively. The biggest improvements were observed for fresh fruit, an increase of 28·6 %, adding almost a kilogram of fresh fruits per household per month. WIC households spent three times more of their WIC vouchers on purchasing fresh fruits than fresh vegetables. The magnitudes of substitution effects were relatively small: between 4 % (fresh fruit) and 13 % (canned vegetables) of the amounts purchased in 2009 with non-WIC funds were replaced by purchases made using WIC vouchers in 2010.

Conclusions: The provision of fruit and vegetable benefits in the revised WIC food packages increased overall purchases of fruits and vegetables among WIC-participating households in New England. Efforts to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables by people receiving federal food assistance are paying off.

Keywords: Food policy; Fruit and vegetable consumption; Grocery purchases; WIC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Connecticut
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Assistance*
  • Food, Preserved / analysis
  • Food, Preserved / economics
  • Fruit* / chemistry
  • Fruit* / economics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Motivation*
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritive Value
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pregnancy
  • Vegetables* / chemistry
  • Vegetables* / economics