meat as a typical suburban market, at similar prices (Lavin, 2005). The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative—a statewide financing program designed to increase supermarket development in underserved areas—has funded 78 fresh-food outlets in Pennsylvania, which have increased food access for 500,000 children and adults (Karpyn et al., 2010). More research is need to understand what changes might improve access to food outlets. Approaches at the environmental level might include transportation policies that address both affordability and routes, and incentive/financing programs to increase the number of and quality of supermarkets in low-income, minority communities.

DATA AND ANALYTICAL CHALLENGES

While the evidence is clear that a number of factors create barriers to purchasing healthy foods under the assumptions of the TFP, the relative importance of these factors to determining the feasibility of defining the adequacy of SNAP allotments is uncertain. For example, is geographic proximity to food outlets more or less important than the the quality of food available for purchase? Is the type of food outlet available more or less important than access to public transportation? Understanding these issues is complicated by the following measurement challenges:

•   Evidence on time requirements for SNAP participants to prepare healthy meals consistent with the assumptions of the TFP is lacking. Additional research is needed to evaluate the time used to prepare a healthy meal compared with that used for preprepared processed foods.

•   Multiple dimensions have an impact on prices paid for food consumed at home by SNAP households. Additional evidence is needed to examine regional differences in the cost of foods purchased by SNAP participants.

•   Existing studies consider access to stores almost exclusively from a consumer’s home, not from work, church, or other activities, and therefore may not fully account for the range of access constraints experienced by SNAP participants. Thus further research is needed on the possible impact of limited access to certain food outlets (e.g., supermarkets) on the ability of some SNAP participants to purchase a variety of healthy foods at reasonable cost. Evaluation and assessment of barriers to access should include the degree to which, and for whom, limitations in access to food outlets constrain the SNAP allotment.

•   The availability of food stores within a given locale is the most frequently used measure of the food environment. However, identifying



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement