Higher food prices may aggravate household food insecurity and hurt diet quality. Using a sample of low-income households from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), this study examines whether local food prices affect food insecurity and nutritional quality of foods acquired, and how households use competent consumer behaviors to mitigate any adverse effects of price. Financial management practices, nutrition literacy, and conscientious food shopping practices were considered for consumer competency. Our findings indicate that low-income households in higher-cost areas, regardless of whether they participate in SNAP or not, are more likely to adopt loyalty or other store savings programs than those in areas where food cost is relatively lower. Also, controlling for local food cost and various household characteristics, SNAP participants are more likely to use loyalty programs or other store savings, and are more likely to be aware of the dietary guidelines than nonparticipants. Our findings suggest that, although theoretically households could benefit from various consumer competencies and skills especially when the food cost is high, taking advantage of competent consumption strategies may be out of reach for many low-income consumers dealing with high food cost. Further, policies that incentivize competent or conscientious consumption among program participants might decrease food insecurity but likely at the expense of lowered nutritional quality of acquired foods, as long as less healthy food choices are also less expensive.

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date


Discussion Paper Number

DP 2016-06