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
This research brief summarizes findings from an exploratory study of a diverse sample of juvenile justice residential facilities in North Carolina conducted by RTI International. The study examined food service operations, agency and facility level policies and practices pertaining to nutrition, participation in federal school nutrition programs, and additional food … More
Farm-to-School Education Grants Reach Low-Income Children and Encourage Them to Learn About Fruits and Vegetables
For children from low-income families, school meals are a significant portion of daily caloric intake and hence an opportunity to address food insecurity. Many states have pursued legislation to institutionalize programs such as farm to school that aim to improve the quality of school meals and acceptance of healthy foods … More
Evaluation of the USDA FINI Program Finds Benefits for Consumers, Farmers and Retailers, and Local Economies
In December 2018, Congress passed a new farm bill which included a reauthorization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program. This brief summarizes the findings of a recent qualitative evaluation of FINI, which concludes that the program has benefits for consumers, farmers and … More