SuperShelf Pilot: The Impact of a Behavioral Economics Intervention on the Nutritional Quality of Food Selected by Clients at Food Pantries
This study will evaluate the impact of a behavioral economics intervention on the nutritional quality of food selected by clients at food pantries. In 2014, an estimated 14% of U.S. households experienced food insecurity. Along with programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food pantries are a critical component of the hunger relief system. Food pantry clients have demonstrated poor nutritional outcomes, high chronic disease rates, and dissatisfaction with the range and quality of food offered. Increasingly, food pantries help households manage chronic food assistance needs.
Pantries face both supply-side issues constrain what is offered to clients, and demand-side issues impede the movement of healthy food through the system. Nationally and locally, hunger relief organizations begun to use behavioral economic strategies to encourage clients to select healthier items. These strategies have almost never been tested to evaluate their impact on client behavior.
This study will evaluate the impact of a behavioral economic intervention in two food pantries on the nutritional quality of food selected by clients (primary outcome). Behavioral economic strategies include: (1) altering food allowances for clients by expanding choice in healthy food categories and constraining choice in less healthy food categories, and (2) adapting retail marketing strategies (e.g., product placement and promotions) to the food pantry setting to encourage healthy food selection. The study will take place in two food pantries in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Two additional pantries will be used as a control setting, to capture seasonal and secular trends in food distribution and client demand. We expect that these changes to the food pantry environment will allow healthy perishables and other items to move through the pantry quickly, establishing a feedback loop between healthy food availability (supply) and food selection (demand).
Caitlin Caspi ScD, Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota
Hikaru Peterson PhD, Co-Investigator Professor, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota
Kate Grannon MPH, RD, Project Manager, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota
Samantha Carlson, MPH, Statistical and Data Analyst, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota
This project is funded by The Duke-UNC USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research (BECR). BECR is funded by the USDA to promote healthy, economical food choice through the use of behavioral economics.