This article describes and addresses the challenges researchers face when utilizing natural experimental studies to evaluate changes to the retail food environment. Through the use of case studies, the article describes strategies and approaches for overcoming these challenges. The challenges are divided into categories of: 1) study design and analysis; 2) selection of participants, selection of measure, and obtainment of data; and 3) real-world considerations. Advantages and disadvantages to each approach are provided. Consideration of these challenges and best practices can minimize bias and ensure natural experimental studies effectively assess the impact of policies and programs on food access, availability, and intake for use by stakeholders, policymakers, and food retailers.
Best Practices for Using Natural Experiments to Evaluate Retail Food and Beverage Policies and Interventions
A Qualitative Evaluation of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program
This research describes findings from interviews conducted with grantees of multi-year community-based and large-scale projects funded by the FINI mechanism, as well as with stakeholders who could speak to FINI on a broader level. A total of 22 interviews were conducted with 19 organizations. Key elements addressed in this evaluation … More
This study aimed to: explore the number and spatial distribution of 9,556 SNAP stores in North Carolina by type and assess how SNAP benefit redemption is linked to store type; compare the demographics of populations living in areas with a high concentration of SNAP participants vs areas with a lower … More
This study builds on the recommendations for healthy minimum stocking developed by an expert panel convened by Healthy Eating Research in 2015. It tests the feasibility of the standards and provides practical insight from retailers about implementation. Researchers collected qualitative and quantitative data from 57 small stores in four states … More