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The Global Food Research Program is uniquely situated to evaluate the impact of SSB tax and many other changes initiatives at the local level, particularly for large geographical areas in the US for which we have daily food purchasing data for large representative samples from 2000-onwards. At this point the first SSB tax evaluation was undertaken for Berkeley with more limited ability to use the food purchase data because of the small size of Berkeley within the larger San Francisco geographical areas. However this will not be the case for most SSB taxes and other city or county initiatives for larger geographical areas.

Berkeley’s Sugar Sweetened Beverage Excise Tax

In collaboration with the Public Health Institute (PHI), we are evaluating Berkeley, California’s Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) excise tax that came into effect on March 1st, 2015. This is the first major excise tax on SSBs in effect in the United States. Our objectives are to:

1) Document the prices of beverages in Berkeley during the first year of soda tax implementation (March 2015-February 2016) in 2015 and evaluate if there are changes in prices in beverages between 2013 and February 2016 in Berkeley, CA.
2) Document purchases of beverages in Berkeley stores, to the extent possible, and evaluate if there are changes in purchases in beverages between 2013 and February 2016 in Berkeley, CA. This use of scanner data will come from 1 to 3 or more large stores/outlets serving low-income Berkeley residents.
3) Quantify beverage intake in a representative sample of >600 Berkeley residents and evaluate changes between November –December 2014 and November – December 2015 in Berkeley, CA
4) Document changes in shopping patterns resulting from the Berkeley SSB tax.

This work is funded by The Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Food purchases and food assistance

We are beginning work that seeks to investigate changes in food purchases among food assistance beneficiaries compared to appropriate comparison subpopulations.

For example, we are studying how major changes in 2009 to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) relate to food purchases. We are undertaking the first major effort to quantify on a national scale how WIC changes relate to packaged food purchases in 2010 and 2015 compared to 2008 (pre-change), if state variations in policy options matter, and if WIC changes are associated with reducing nutrient disparities. It will provide an evidence base for maintaining or making future changes to WIC, and identify WIC policy options that work well in tandem for improved nutrition outcomes among beneficiaries.

Future work will look at purchases among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries.