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Transactions at a Northeastern Supermarket Chain: Differences by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Use

      Introduction

      Although one in seven Americans receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, little is known about how these benefits for food are spent because individual-level sales data are not publicly available. The purpose of this study is to compare transactions made with and without SNAP benefits at a large regional supermarket chain.

      Methods

      Sales data were obtained from a large supermarket chain in the Northeastern U.S. for a period of 2 years (April 2012–April 2014). Multivariate multiple regression models were used to quantify relative differences in dollars spent on 31 predefined SNAP-eligible food categories. Analyses were completed in 2016.

      Results

      Transactions with SNAP benefit use included higher spending on less healthful food categories, including sugar-sweetened beverages ($1.08), red meat ($1.55), and convenience foods ($1.34), and lower spending on more healthful food categories, such as fruits (–$1.51), vegetables (–$1.35), and poultry (–$1.25) compared to transactions without SNAP benefit use.

      Conclusions

      These findings provide objective data to compare purchases made with and without SNAP benefits. Next steps should be to test proposed SNAP modifications to determine whether they would have the intended effect of promoting healthier purchasing patterns among SNAP beneficiaries.
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