Study suggests food and nutrition text-messages sent by a CalFresh (SNAP) agency to all participants can increase purchase and intake of California-grown fruits and vegetables and improve feelings about CalFresh participation

Apr 28, 2023

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California, provides monthly electronic benefits for food purchases to over 40 million individuals with low incomes across the US. However, SNAP agencies do not typically provide  participants with information about food or nutrition. A pilot study was conducted to understand whether a CalFresh agency can send food and nutrition-based text messages, and if so, whether they can be effective. NPI researchers received a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to test the idea. In collaboration with UCSD, ideas42, and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, five monthly SMS text messages in English and Spanish were sent to over 170,000 SNAP households. Each text message contained a link to a website offering additional information on topics including the health benefits of different fruits and vegetables, cost-savings associated with seasonal produce, recipes and tips to reduce food waste. After 5 months, survey respondents showed a significant increase in knowledge about selecting, storing, and preparing fruits and vegetables. Over half of respondents self-reported purchasing and eating more California-grown fruits and vegetables at follow-up and nearly all respondents expressed interest in continuing to receive text messages. The findings suggest that text messages are a promising strategy to provide useful and relevant information on food and nutrition to SNAP participants. The research, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, was conducted by Wendi Gosliner, Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic, and Hannah Thompson from the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Shana Wright and Blanca Melendrez from the UC San Diego Center for Community Health; Allison Yates-Berg from ideas42; and Hao Tang from Colombia University. Funding for this project was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 19-0001-054. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA. Additional funding was received from the National Institutes of Health grant UL1TR001442.

By Katherine Lanca
Author - Graduate Student
By Danielle L. Lee
Editor - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Wendi Gosliner
Editor - Project scientist
By Ron Strochlic