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Leung C.W.,Harvard University | Blumenthal S.J.,Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress | Blumenthal S.J.,New America Foundation | Hoffnagle E.E.,Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress | And 5 more authors.
Pediatrics | Year: 2013

OBJECTIVE: To determine if obesity and dietary quality in low-income children differed by participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program. METHODS: The study population included 5193 children aged 4 to 19 with household incomes ≤130% of the federal poverty level from the 1999-2008 NHANES. Diet was measured by using 24-hour recalls. RESULTS: Among low-income US children, 28% resided in households currently receiving SNAP benefits. After adjusting for sociodemographic differences, SNAP participation was not associated with a higher rate of childhood obesity (odds ratio = 1.11, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.71-1.74). Both SNAP participants and low-income nonparticipants were below national recommendations for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and potassium, while exceeding recommended limits for processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated fat, and sodium. Zero percent of low-income children met at least 7 of 10 dietary recommendations. After multivariate adjustment, compared with nonparticipants, SNAP participants consumed 43% more sugar-sweetened beverages (95% CI: 8%-89%), 47% more high-fat dairy (95% CI: 7%, 101%), and 44% more processed meats (95% CI: 9%-91%), but 19% fewer nuts, seeds, and legumes (95% CI: -35% to 0%). In part due to these differences, intakes of calcium, iron, and folate were significantly higher among SNAP participants. Significant differences by SNAP participation were not evident in total energy, macronutrients, Healthy Eating Index 2005 scores, or Alternate Healthy Eating Index scores. CONCLUSIONS: The diets of low-income children are far from meeting national dietary recommendations. Policy changes should be considered to restructure SNAP to improve children's health. Copyright © 2013 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Leung C.W.,University of California at San Francisco | Leung C.W.,Harvard University | Hoffnagle E.E.,National League of Cities | Hoffnagle E.E.,Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress | And 11 more authors.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics | Year: 2013

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest federal food assistance program, currently serves 44.7 million Americans with a budget of $75 billion in 2011. This study engaged leading experts for in-depth, semi-structured interviews to explore their opinions concerning the existing challenges and barriers to eating nutritiously in SNAP. Experts also proposed strategies for improving nutritional status among SNAP recipients. Twenty-seven individuals were interviewed from advocacy, government, industry, and research organizations. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed for thematic content. The high cost of nutrient-rich foods, inadequate SNAP benefits, limited access to purchasing healthy foods, and environmental factors associated with poverty were identified as barriers that influence nutrition among low-income households in the United States. Six themes emerged among respondents from diverse sectors about how to address these challenges, including providing SNAP participants with incentives to purchase nutrient-rich food consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, restricting the purchase of nutrient-poor foods and beverages with program benefits, modifying the frequency of SNAP benefit distribution, enhancing nutrition education, improving the SNAP retailer environment, and increasing state and federal level coordination and consistency of program implementation. Given the recent dramatic increase in SNAP enrollment, policymakers must address existing barriers as well as consider new strategies to improve nutrition policies in SNAP so that the program can continue to address food insecurity needs as well as provide a healthful diet for SNAP beneficiaries. © 2013 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Blumenthal S.J.,New America Foundation | Hoffnagle E.E.,National League of Cities | Leung C.W.,University of California at San Francisco | Lofink H.,School Based Health Alliance | And 5 more authors.
Public Health Nutrition | Year: 2013

Objective To examine the opinions of stakeholders on strategies to improve dietary quality of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. Design Participants answered a thirty-eight-item web-based survey assessing opinions and perceptions of SNAP and programme policy changes. Setting USA. Subjects Survey of 522 individuals with stakeholder interest in SNAP, conducted in October through December 2011. Results The top three barriers to improving dietary quality identified were: (i) unhealthy foods marketed in low-income communities; (ii) the high cost of healthy foods; and (III) lifestyle challenges faced by low-income individuals. Many respondents (70 %) also disagreed that current SNAP benefit levels were adequate to maintain a healthy diet. Stakeholders believed that vouchers, coupons or monetary incentives for purchasing healthful foods might have the greatest potential for improving the diets of SNAP participants. Many respondents (78 %) agreed that sodas should not be eligible for purchases with SNAP benefits. More than half (55 %) believed retailers could easily implement such restrictions. A majority of respondents (58 %) agreed that stores should stock a minimum quantity of healthful foods in order to be certified as a SNAP retailer, and most respondents (83 %) believed that the US Department of Agriculture should collect data on the foods purchased with SNAP benefits. Conclusions Results suggest that there is broad stakeholder support for policies that align SNAP purchase eligibility with national public health goals of reducing food insecurity, improving nutrition and preventing obesity. © The Authors 2013.

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