The Role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the Relationship Between Food Insecurity and Probability of Maternal Depression

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Journal Article

Food insecurity is a substantial stressor for many households. Though an association between food insecurity and depression has been well established, most studies have been cross-sectional. Although many receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), its role in reducing distress associated with food insecurity is unclear. Using data from 1,225 women who participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this study investigated 1) whether change in food security status predicts change in depression severity over a two-year period, 2) whether participating in SNAP predicts depression, and 3) whether the relationship between food insecurity and depression varies based on receipt of SNAP. Food insecurity was linked to probability of depression over time. Additionally, for those who became food insecure over the two-year period, losing SNAP benefits was associated with increased probability of depression, while gaining benefits was associated with reduced probability of depression. This suggests that the SNAP program offsets emotional hardship for those who have recently become food insecure. Further research is needed to evaluate the most efficient and efficacious means to reduce food insecurity and improve emotional wellbeing among vulnerable families.

Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition