Competitive pricing for healthy foods

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help residents access health services. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Incentives, subsidies, or price discounts for healthy foods and beverages and disincentives or price increases for unhealthy or less nutritious foods and beverages
  • Can be implemented in schools, at work sites, in grocery stores, in cafeterias, in vending machines, and more
  • Because adults and teenagers have been shown to purchase items that are lower in cost regardless of nutritional value, larger price differences between healthy foods and unhealthy foods are linked to greater improvements in healthy food consumption

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)

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Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps


Target population

Community-wide

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased stocking and sales of healthy foods, including low-fat foods, fruits, vegetables, and water
  • Increased healthier food consumption
  • Created lasting behavioral change

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Specific approaches should be informed by community engagement processes, which can create a more accurate sense of unique community needs.
  • Interventions that reduce the costs of healthier food are shown to increase consumption of healthier items across demographics and geographies.
  • Participant recruitment and retention strategies should be formulated after understanding community priorities, creating a theory of change, and setting goals accordingly.
  • Partnerships with community groups, schools, employers, and local businesses can strengthen knowledge of incentives and health benefits, supporting positive behavioral change.
  • Political pushback can take the form of opposition to subsidies, additional taxes on unhealthy foods, and general resistance to new public expenditures.

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