Assessing the Cost Sustainability of a Behavioral Economics I ...

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Abstract

Introduction: Behavioral economics interventions have shown promise to positively influence food-shelf environments, making the healthy choice the easy choice. Knowing this, the question becomes whether it is cost-effective for food-shelves to implement such interventions. This study examines cost sustainability of a behavioral economics model, SuperShelf. By examining the relationship between dollars spent on food, quantity provided to customers, and nutritional quality of the food that food shelves are ordering, this study demonstrates the cost sustainability of SuperShelf. Methods: SuperShelf was implemented in two food shelves: intervention A and control A (located in the inner city) and intervention B and control B (located in the suburbs). For analysis, food shelf invoices were collected from two main Minnesota food banks pre-and-post SuperShelf intervention. The invoices, pre-and-post, were collected during the same six-month period (January-July) to control for any seasonality effects on food cost and availability. Using the invoices cost per person per month (pppm) and pounds of food pppm were calculated. All invoices were scored on the nutritional quality of the ordered food using the Food Assortment Sorting Tool (FAST). Results: Food shelves that completed the SuperShelf transformation did not increase costs pppm and were able to provide customers with more food per month than before the intervention. Additionally, intervention sites FAST scores increased, suggesting that post-intervention they were providing healthier foods. Environmental assessments indicated that SuperShelf was delivered with greater fidelity at intervention site A compared with intervention site B. Conclusions: Results indicate that SuperShelf is a cost sustainable behavioral economics model for food shelves.