Cost Effectiveness of Subsidizing Fruit and Vegetable Purchases Through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Am J Prev Med. 2017 May;52(5):e147-e155. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.12.013. Epub 2017 Jan 30.


Introduction: A diet high in fruits and vegetables (FV) is associated with reduced risk of chronic disease. One strategy to incentivize FV consumption among low-income households is to make them more affordable through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This study aims to identify the cost effectiveness of subsidizing FV purchases among the one in seven Americans who participate in SNAP.

Methods: A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted from a societal perspective to estimate lifetime costs and health gains associated with subsidizing FV purchases. A stochastic microsimulation model of obesity, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, and stroke in the 2015 U.S. population was used. Model parameters were based on nationally representative SNAP participation and dietary consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-2012), and data from a randomized trial of FV subsidies among SNAP users.

Results: Despite cycling of participants in and out of SNAP, expanding an FV subsidy nationwide through SNAP would be expected to reduce incidence of type 2 diabetes by 1.7% (95% CI=1.2, 2.2), myocardial infarction by 1.4% (95% CI=0.9, 1.9), stroke by 1.2% (95% CI=0.8, 1.6), and obesity by 0.2% (95% CI=0.1, 0.3), and be cost saving from a societal perspective. The saved costs would be largely attributable to long-term reductions in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Conclusions: The model suggests nationwide SNAP FV subsidies would reduce chronic disease morbidity, mortality, and costs over long time horizons that are unlikely to be observed in short-term community-based trials.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Food Assistance / economics
  • Food Assistance / organization & administration*
  • Fruit / economics
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • United States
  • Vegetables / economics