Study led by PRC Researcher, Deborah Salvo, finds that implementing high discounts on the cost of vegetables, or jointly increasing geographic and economic access to mobile markets or farm stands, can increase vegetable intake among low-income groups.

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Abstract

Modifying the food environment of cities is a promising strategy for improving dietary behaviors, but using traditional empirical methods to test the effectiveness of these strategies remains challenging. We developed an agent-based model to simulate the food environment of Austin, Texas, USA, and to test the impact of different food access policies on vegetable consumption among low-income, predominantly Latino residents. The model was developed and calibrated using empirical data from the FRESH-Austin Study, a natural experiment. We simulated five policy scenarios: (1) business as usual; (2)-(4) expanding geographic and/or economic healthy food access via the Fresh for Less program (i.e., through farm stands, mobile markets, and healthy corner stores); and (5) expanding economic access to vegetables in supermarkets and small grocers. The model predicted that increasing geographic and/or economic access to healthy corner stores will not meaningfully improve vegetable intake, whilst implementing high discounts (>85%) on the cost of vegetables, or jointly increasing geographic and economic access to mobile markets or farm stands, will increase vegetable intake among low-income groups. Implementing discounts at supermarkets and small grocers is also predicted to be an effective policy for increasing vegetable consumption. This work highlights the utility of agent-based modeling for informing food access policies.

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