December 12, 2016

Nutrition program improves food stamp family's food security

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Food stamp participants who participated in a supplemental nutrition education program were able to improve their food security by 25 percent, according to a study by Purdue University.

"Food assistance is very important and this shows that nutrition education is an effective part of improving food security as the lessons focused on practical ways to stretch food dollars while eating nutritiously," said Heather Eicher-Miller, an assistant professor of nutrition science. "In Indiana, Snap Ed is making a significant impact, and it is amazing that an education program that is shared with just one person in a household has the power to change how an entire family is eating for one year. What these families learn can last longer than the food assistance they receive."

These findings are published in The Journal of Nutrition. During 2013, 19.5 percent of U. S. households with children experienced food insecurity at some time during the year, and children can suffer from psychological, behavioral and physical problems if they do not consume enough food.

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, serves millions of low-income individuals and families. SNAP is a part of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. SNAP-Ed programs can vary from state to state. The direct education provided through SNAP-Ed programs in Indiana are hands on, and all lessons combine maximizing the food budget while focusing on nutritional components, such as consuming lean meats and vegetables and fruits. One lesson includes visiting a grocery story to compare prices while studying items' nutritional labels. These lessons are provided through local Purdue Extension offices.

In this randomized controlled study, 575 individuals from low-income Indiana households, each with at least one child, participated in the first four Indiana SNAP-Ed curriculum lessons. The lessons were taught by 41 SNAP-Ed educators from 38 Indiana counties. The individuals were interviewed before they started the education program and a year later.

"The fact that what they learned made a difference months later is remarkable," said Eicher-Miller, who also is director of Indiana's Emergency Food Resource Network. "This educational program is voluntary for SNAP participants. We may not see such a large increase in food security over time if the program was required for the population it serves."

This research was supported by a grant from the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research through funding by the USDA, Food and Nutrition Service. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu 

Source: Heather Eicher-Miller, heicherm@purdue.edu 

Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in a copy of The Journal of Nutrition article can contact Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu


ABSTRACT

SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education) Increases Long-Term Food Security among Indiana Households with Children in a Randomized Controlled Study
Rebecca L. Rivera, Melissa K. Maulding, Angela R. Abbott, Bruce A. Craig and Heather A. Eicher-Miller
10.3945/jn.116.231373

Background: Food insecurity is negatively associated with U.S. children's dietary intake and health. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) aims to alleviate food insecurity by offering nutrition, budgeting, and healthy lifestyle education to low-income individuals and families.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the long-term impact of the Indiana SNAP-Ed on food security among households with children.

Methods: A randomized, controlled, parallel study design with SNAP-Ed as an intervention was carried out during a 4- to 10-week intervention period. Intervention group participants received the first 4 Indiana SNAP-Ed curriculum lessons. Study participants (n = 575) were adults aged ≥ 18 from low-income Indiana households with ≥ 1 child living in the household. Both treatment groups completed an assessment before and after the intervention period and 1 year after recruitment. The 18-item U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module was used to classify the primary outcomes of food security for the household and adults and children in the household. A linear mixed model was used to compare intervention with control group effects over time on food security.

Results: Mean ± SEM changes in household food security score and food security score among household adults from baseline to 1-year follow-up were 1.2 ± 0.4 and 0.9 ± 0.3 units lower, respectively, in the intervention group than in the control group (P<0.01). The mean change in food security score from baseline to 1-year follow-up among household children was not significantly different in the intervention group compared with the control group.

Conclusions: SNAP-Ed improved food security over a longitudinal time frame among low-income Indiana households with children in this study. SNAP-Ed may be successful intervention to improve food security. 


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