Optimal Interventions for Increasing Healthy Food Consumption Among Low Income Households

56 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019 Last revised: 20 Oct 2020

See all articles by Retsef Levi

Retsef Levi

MIT Sloan School of Management - Operations Research Center

Elisabeth Paulson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Operations Research Center

Georgia Perakis

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: November 13, 2019

Abstract

The federal government currently spends over $100 billion per year on policies aimed to increase fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption among low income households. These include price-, nutrition education-, and access-related interventions. Currently, the government allocates funds to each type of intervention in an ad- hoc fashion, often resulting in surprisingly disappointing outcomes. For example, access-related interventions have seen mixed results in many case studies, resulting in debate about the importance of supply-side interventions. This paper introduces a novel consumer behavioral model for grocery shopping dynamics, which is nested into a bi-level model for optimizing the governments investments. The government’s goal is to increase fruit and vegetable (FV), or more generally healthy food, consumption among low income households by utilizing strategic portfolios of interventions. Based on primitives estimated from data, the model agrees with known empirical evidence and suggests several new policy insights, for example that access- related interventions are only beneficial under specific conditions which depend heavily on the consumer’s value of nutrition. In a setting where the government cannot provide completely personalized interventions, it is found that high levels of FV consumption by can be achieved by subsetting consumers based on key characteristics and deploying smart subpopulation-level strategies.

Suggested Citation

Levi, Retsef and Paulson, Elisabeth and Perakis, Georgia, Optimal Interventions for Increasing Healthy Food Consumption Among Low Income Households (November 13, 2019). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 6053-19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3486292 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3486292

Retsef Levi

MIT Sloan School of Management - Operations Research Center ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Elisabeth Paulson (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Operations Research Center ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Bldg. E 40-149
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Georgia Perakis

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-565
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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