Farmers’ market program improves diets in low-income neighborhoods

A study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that farmers’ markets can be a way to help families on federal food assistance improve their diets. They studied the effects of a program offered by Farm Fresh Rhode Island that provides families with a modest financial incentive to shop at a farmers’ market ($20 to spend at every third visit), in addition to introducing them to new foods through tastings and cooking demonstrations. The researchers found that over the course of one summer in the program, participants lowered their daily soda consumption by 25% and increased the amount of vegetables they ate by 12%. The program had a positive effect on many children’s willingness to eat more vegetables, which inspired their parents to stick with the program.

First author April Bowling, a doctoral student at Harvard Chan, told the Harvard Health Blog that farmers’ markets provide an environment that supports healthy eating. “There’s a culture that’s specific to farmers’ markets,” she said in a June 23, 2016 article. “You’re surrounded by other customers who are making healthy choices and by farmers who have grown the produce and know how to prepare it.”

Read Harvard Health Blog article: An easy way to eat healthier this summer: Find a farmers’ market

Read study: Healthy Foods, Healthy Families: combining incentives and exposure interventions at urban farmers’ markets to improve nutrition among recipients of US federal food assistance (Health Promotion Perspectives)