How Does Consistency of Food and Nutrition Support Effect Daily Food Consumption among Children Living in Poverty? Recession-Era Implications

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Journal Article

Underutilization of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) food safety net programs may compromise child nutritional benefits for families with limited incomes. Using a sample of children surveyed before (2003–2006) and after the Great Recession (2007–2009), we examine whether consistent access to WIC and SNAP during times of increased economic stress moderated the association between poverty level (i.e., income-needs ratio [INR]) and fruits and vegetables (FV) or foods high in saturated fats and added sugars (SFAS). Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study income-eligible mothers/children (≤185% of poverty) with available FV and SFAS data at the 5- (2003–2006) and 9-year (2007–2010) waves (n = 733) were included. Main effects of INR and interaction effects of consistency of WIC, SNAP, and dual WIC and SNAP support from birth through age 5 were examined. INR was associated with decreased FV consumption frequency from age 5 to 9, conditional upon consistency of dual WIC/SNAP enrollment. FV declined when there was low consistency (<1 year) of dual support. FV consumption was stable across INR when combined WIC/SNAP support lasted at least 2 years. Results can inform strategies for optimizing the nutritional impact of WIC and SNAP by focusing on those most at risk for underutilization of multiple benefits.

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