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The WIC Fruit and Vegetable Cash Voucher: Does Regional Price Variation Affect Buying Power?

by Ephraim Leibtag and Aylin Kumcu

Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-75) 21 pp, May 2011

cover image for eib75 The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods to low-income women, infants, and children at nutritional risk. Since October 2009, WIC packages have included a fixed-value voucher for purchasing fruits and vegetables. Although this should help increase fruit and vegetable consumption for all WIC participants, regional price variation could lead to different buying power—and nutritional benefits—across the country. Using 2004-06 Nielsen Homescan data, the authors examine the prices of fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned) in 26 metropolitan market areas to determine how price variations affect the voucher’s purchasing power. The authors find that the 20 most commonly purchased fruits and vegetables cost 30-70 percent more in the highest priced market areas than in the lowest, implying that WIC participants in more expensive areas might be able to purchase fewer fruits and vegetables than those living where these items are cheaper. The lowest priced market for fruits and vegetables was the Nashville, Birmingham, Memphis, and Louisville area, while the highest was San Francisco.

Keywords: WIC, fruit and vegetable voucher, fruit and vegetable prices, Nielsen Homescan, geographic price variation

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Last updated: Saturday, May 26, 2012

For more information contact: Ephraim Leibtag and Aylin Kumcu