The Relationship of Food Price Variations to Food Acquisition Behaviors

Investigator: Hilary K. Seligman, MD
Sponsor: University of Kentucky

Location(s): United States


  • Hilary Seligman, University of California, San Francisco (PI)
  • Sanjay Basu, Stanford University (Co-Investigator)
  • Christopher Wimer, Columbia University (Co-Investigator)

This project will examine how the healthfulness of foods acquired by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households varies between higher- and lower-cost areas of the country. It will also examine how the healthfulness of acquired food varies by: 1) price differences among healthier and less healthy foods within stores frequented by SNAP users, and 2) overall cost of living.

Using the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), the investigators will examine the relationships between food prices and healthy food acquisitions within and among high- and low-food-price areas of the country, defined by Regional Price Parities. Additionally, they will study how healthy food acquisition relates to price variations between healthier and less healthy foods within metropolitan statistical areas, retail market areas, and individual stores frequented by SNAP users, as well as variations in cost-of-living indices and geographic adjustments to poverty thresholds. The healthfulness of foods will be defined by the Healthy Eating Index, and all analyses will compare how food price and food acquisition behaviors differ within SNAP, non-SNAP and low-income, and higher income populations, using a control function approach to account for the endogeneity of SNAP participation.

The analysis will address the question—how much do SNAP adjustments for food price environments encourage healthier food acquisitions? The analysis will also allow for a better understanding of whether interventions should be targeted toward specific parts of the country (high food-cost or overall-cost regions), or toward those stores where SNAP recipients are most likely to shop.