Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why Making Healthful Foods Cheaper Isn't Enough

Here is an interesting article featured on NPR about healthier food choices. Encouraging healthier eating is proving to be a complex issue; NPR takes a look at the economic side of the issue:

Bucks for broccoli or cash for carrots? Financial incentives aimed at encouraging healthier choices are catching on from New Zealand to the Philippines. Workplaces in the United States have been offering incentives for weight loss. In a London-based study, dieters got paid when they dropped pounds. Now researchers are interested in understanding how food price manipulations may influence what ends up in mothers' grocery carts. Does increasing the cost of sugary items mean fewer people buy them? Would more people buy veggies if they were more affordable?

To create successful incentives, says Yale behavioral economist Dean Karlan, a policy needs to specifically target the people whose behavior its trying to change. "So in the case of broccoli you'd want to find out who's not eating broccoli and then pay them to eat it," he says. You don't want to necessarily make broccoli cheaper for those who are already buying plenty of it, you want to target those who don't buy enough fruits or vegetables. It could be very tricky to structure such an incentive.

Click here to read the rest of the article

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