SNAP participants' purchasing patterns at a food co-op during the COVID-19 pandemic

A preliminary analysis


  • Molly K. Parker Virginia Tech
  • Valisa E. Hedrick Virginia Tech
  • Sam Hedges Local Environmental Agricultural Project
  • Elizabeth Borst Virginia Community Food Connections
  • Meredith Ledlie Johnson Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech
  • Maureen McNamara Best Local Environmental Agricultural Project
  • Sarah A. Misyak Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech



Nutrition Incentive Programs, Food System, Food Insecurity, Fruits, Vegetables, SNAP, COVID-19, Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the food system, increasing barriers to food access and exac­erbating food insecurity across the U.S. The Vir­ginia state government initiated a stay-at-home order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the Virginia Fresh Match (VFM) Nutrition Incentive Network partnered with food retail outlets to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants point-of-purchase incentives (e.g., Double Up Food Bucks, SNAP Match), which function as matching discounts on fresh fruits and vegetables (F/V). These can enable participants to increase their purchasing power and potentially reduce food insecurity. In response to COVID-19, VFM removed the limit on incentive discounts (previ­ously $10[1]) to further incentivize the purchase of fresh F/V by SNAP participants. This study sought to characterize the purchasing patterns of SNAP participants at a food co-operative (co-op) partnered with VFM before and during the Virginia stay-at-home order. A total of 654 transactions at the co-op were included. Independent t-tests were utilized to determine differences before and during the order. The results indicated a significant in­crease in the mean incentive discount received dur­ing the order (pre-shutdown=$3.95, inter-shut­down=$5.01, p=0.035); however, simultaneously there was a decrease in the mean number of fresh F/V purchased (pre-shutdown=3.08, inter-shut­down=2.39, p=0.015). Although F/V purchases decreased, the presence of unlimited point-of-pur­chase incentives at the food co-op may have helped prevent a greater decline in fresh F/V pur­chases and helped increase access to fresh F/V in this population during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[1] All currency in this paper is US$.


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Author Biographies

Molly K. Parker, Virginia Tech

MS, Doctoral Student

Valisa E. Hedrick, Virginia Tech

PhD, RDN, Assistant Professor

Sam Hedges, Local Environmental Agricultural Project

Program Grant Manager

Elizabeth Borst, Virginia Community Food Connections

Executive Director

Meredith Ledlie Johnson, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech

MSW, Community Nutrition Coordinator

Maureen McNamara Best, Local Environmental Agricultural Project

MA, Director, Strategic Planning

Sarah A. Misyak, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech

PhD, MPH, Program Manager for Research and Evaluation

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How to Cite

Parker, M., Hedrick, V., Hedges, S., Borst, E., Ledlie Johnson, M., Best, M., & Misyak, S. (2021). SNAP participants’ purchasing patterns at a food co-op during the COVID-19 pandemic: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(2), 147–156.