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Nutritional Profile of Purchases by Store Type: Disparities by Income and Food Program Participation

  • Lindsey Smith Taillie
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Lindsey Smith Taillie, PhD, MPH, Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 123 W. Franklin Street, CB 8120, Chapel Hill NC 27516.
    Affiliations
    Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Anna H. Grummon
    Affiliations
    Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Donna R. Miles
    Affiliations
    Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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      Introduction

      Policymakers have focused on the food retail environment for improving the dietary quality for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. Yet little is known about where SNAP households make food and beverage purchases or how purchases may vary by store type, SNAP participation, and income level. The objective of this study was to examine the association between SNAP-income status (participant, income-eligible non-participant, higher-income non-participant) and healthfulness of household purchases across store types.

      Methods

      Data included household packaged food purchases (N=76,458 unique households) from 2010 to 2014, analyzed in 2017 with multivariable adjusted models to examine the nutritional profile of purchases by store type (grocery, convenience, big box, and other stores) for SNAP participating households, income-eligible non-participants, and higher-income non-participants. Outcomes included volume and nutrients (kilocalories, total sugar, saturated fat, and sodium) and calories from food groups.

      Results

      All households purchased the greatest volume of foods and beverages from grocery stores, followed by big-box and other stores, with relatively little purchased from convenience stores. The largest differences between SNAP participants and non-participants were observed at grocery stores and big-box stores, where SNAP households purchased more calories from starchy vegetables, processed meat, desserts, sweeteners and toppings, total junk food, sugar-sweetened beverages, and milk, than income-eligible and higher-income SNAP non-participants. SNAP purchases also had considerably higher sodium density. Across store types, the nutritional profile of income-eligible non-participants’ purchases was similar to higher-income households’ purchases.

      Conclusions

      More research is needed to identify strategies to improve the nutritional profile of purchases among SNAP households.
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