Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are rapidly depleted after distribution. This phenomenon, known as the benefit cycle, is associated with poor nutrition and health outcomes. Proposed interventions targeting the benefit cycle often focus on impulsive decision-making. However, it remains unclear whether shopper impulsivity is associated with food purchasing behavior. Using data from a prospective trial, we evaluate whether shopper impulsivity is associated with food purchasing behavior before and after households receive nutrition assistance. In this study, 249 low-income households in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, metropolitan area received monthly benefits for three months. Overall impulsivity and impulsivity subtraits of the primary shopper was assessed using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11. Both total food expenditures and expenditures for two specific categories (fruits and vegetables, and foods high in added sugar) were evaluated. Generalized estimating equations were used to model household expenditures as a function of week since benefit distribution, impulsivity, and their interaction. Results showed that during the benefit period, food expenditures were cyclical and patterned by impulsivity. Shoppers with greater overall impulsivity spent $40.62 more in week 1 (p < 0.001). While more impulsive shoppers spent more on foods high in added sugar throughout the month (p < 0.05 for all weeks), no patterns were observed for fruits and vegetables. These findings suggest that greater impulsivity exacerbates cyclical food purchasing behavior. The impact of shopper impulsivity is especially notable for expenditures on foods high in added sugar. SNAP educational interventions to mitigate the benefit cycle may be strengthened by focusing on more impulsive shoppers and on strategies to reduce impulsive purchases of foods high in added sugar.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (Award Number R01DK098152 and T32DK083250 ) at the Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota .
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd
- Benefit cycle
- Food purchasing behavior
- Shopper impulsivity
- Supplemental nutrition assistance program
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural