Do government subsidies for healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, improve the food quality and consumption of low-income Americans? If healthier food were cheaper, would low-income people be more likely to buy it? According to a recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service, the answer appears to be yes.
The average American diet already falls short of the recommended consumption levels of fruits and vegetables: 1.03 cups of fruits and 1.58 cups of vegetables per day in 2004, compared with the recommended 1.80 cups of fruits and 2.60 cups of vegetables. But low income Americans consume the equivalent of only 0.96 cups of fruits and 1.43 cups of vegetables per day.
The report examined how likely it would be that low-income Americans would buy more fresh produce if it were cheaper. It calculated that a 10-percent price discount at the retail level (i.e. in stores) would encourage low-income households to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables by up to 5%. This would still not be ideal, but would be more in line with the average American consumption.