BOSTON - In an effort to combat obesity, a new federal initiative announced last week will designate more than two-dozen Massachusetts cities and towns as the focus of a plan to increase low-income families' consumption of produce, the Boston Globe reports.
The Agriculture Department awarded $20 million to Massachusetts to test whether providing subsidies for buying produce will encourage food stamp recipients to eat more nutritious foods.
Of the 50,000 households in Hampden County €" the study€™s target area €" who use food stamps, several thousand will be offered a 30-percent discount for all fresh fruits and vegetables purchased, with the other groups continuing to pay full price. The households will be tracked for 15 months to determine their eating habit changes and health outcomes. State officials said the program is scheduled to begin next fall.
Authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, the experiment is designed to guide policy makers as they consider food stamp program revisions to promote better dietary habits.
"It€™s one of the largest in the history of the Food and Nutrition Service, not only in terms of the size of the pilot, but the rigor associated with the evaluation,€™€™ said Kevin Concannon, the Agriculture Department€™s undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said in an interview. "We have a lot of information on nutrition, we have a lot of information on health, but we have a lot less information on what influences behavior.€™€™