Study suggests SNAP shoppers can access organic fruits and vegetables at lower prices when shopping at farmers' markets compared to supermarkets

May 13, 2022

Participants of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program often report high prices and lack of access to high-quality, affordable produce as a leading barrier to increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption. Researchers at the University of California Nutrition Policy Institute compared the costs of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables for a household when shopping at farmers' markets compared to supermarkets. Using data from eleven farmers' markets and seven supermarkets across California, they found that farmers' market prices tended to be lower than supermarkets for organic fruits and vegetables and higher than supermarkets for conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, though few differences were statistically significant. A family of three may pay $16.34 less on average if shopping at the farmers market instead of the supermarket for organic produce to meet their weekly recommended intake per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If purchasing a mixture of conventional and organic produce, it may cost $3.68 more on average to shop at the farmers' market. These findings are important to inform nutrition incentive programs such as Market Match which offer SNAP (CalFresh in California) participants financial incentives to use their benefits at participating farmers' markets. The study was published in the journal Nutrients by NPI researchers Sridharshi Hewawitharana, Karen Webb, Ron Strochlic, and Wendi Gosliner.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Wendi Gosliner
Contributor - Project scientist
By Sridharshi Hewawitharana
Contributor - Research Data Analyst
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist