Opportunities to Reduce Childhood Hunger and Obesity Restructuring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the Food Stamp Program)

New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 35.29). 12/2012; 308(24):2567-8. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2012.45420
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: American obesity rates continue to escalate, but an effective policy response remains elusive. Specific changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have been proposed as one way to improve nutrition and combat obesity among lower-income populations. While current SNAP proposals hold promise, some important challenges still remain. We discuss the four most common recommendations for changes to SNAP and their benefits and limitations. We then propose three new delivery options for SNAP that take advantage of behavioral economic insights and encourage the selection of healthy foods. Although the existing proposals could help SNAP recipients, they often do not address some important behavioral impediments to buying healthy foods. We believe that behavioral economics can be used to design alternative policies with several advantages, although we recognize and discuss some of their limitations. The first proposal rewards healthy purchases with more SNAP funds and provides an additional incentive to maintain healthier shopping patterns. The second proposal uses the opportunity to win prizes to reward healthy food choices, and the prizes further support healthier habits. The final proposal simplifies healthy food purchases by allowing individuals to commit their SNAP benefits to more nutritious selections in advance. Reforming the delivery structure of SNAP's benefits could help improve nutrition, weight, and overall health of lower-income individuals. We advocate for more and diverse SNAP proposals, which should be tested and, possibly, combined. Their implementation, however, would require political will, administrative capacity, and funding.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Milbank Quarterly
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    ABSTRACT: Some experts have proposed limiting the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, for calorie-dense foods or subsidizing SNAP purchases of healthier foods. To estimate health effects and cost-effectiveness of banning or taxing sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) or subsidizing fruits and vegetables purchased with SNAP. . Microsimulation. Data Sources. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, US Department of Agriculture Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database, and SNAP program data. Target Population: US adults aged 25 to 64 y. Time Horizon. 10 y. Perspective. Governmental. Outcome MEASURES: Incremental costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), body mass index, Alternative Healthy Eating Index, Food Security Score, diabetes person-years, and deaths from myocardial infarctions (MIs) and strokes. of Base-Case Analysis. Banning SSB purchases using SNAP benefits would be expected to avert 510,000 diabetes person-years and 52,000 deaths from MIs and strokes over the next decade, with a savings of $2900 per QALY saved. A penny-per-ounce tax on SSBs purchased with SNAP dollars would produce higher cost savings due to tax revenues but avert fewer chronic disease deaths. However, some SNAP participants are likely to preferentially purchase SSBs through their disposable income, indirectly reducing their food security. A 30% produce subsidy would be expected to avert 39,000 diabetes person-years and 4600 cardiovascular deaths over 10 y without effects on food security. Results of Sensitivity Analysis. Results are sensitive to the intake elasticities of SSBs and produce. Limitations. Input data did not provide information on heterogeneity in response to price changes within the SNAP-using POPULATION: CONCLUSIONS: SNAP restrictions on SSBs could lower chronic disease mortality, but further testing should examine indirect effects on disposable income and food security. Subsidizing produce could confer fewer benefits or risks but at higher cost.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Medical Decision Making
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    ABSTRACT: Nutritional health is essential for children's growth and development. Many Mexican-origin children who reside in limited-resource colonias along the Texas-Mexico border are at increased risk for poor nutrition as a result of household food insecurity. However, little is known about the prevalence of child hunger or its associated factors among children of Mexican immigrants. This study determines the prevalence of child hunger and identifies protective and risk factors associated with it in two Texas border areas. This study uses 2009 Colonia Household and Community Food Resource Assessment (C-HCFRA) data from 470 mothers who were randomly recruited by promotora-researchers. Participants from colonias near two small towns in two South Texas counties participated in an in-home community and household assessment. Interviewer-administered surveys collected data in Spanish on sociodemographics, federal food assistance program participation, and food security status. Frequencies and bivariate correlations were examined while a random-effects logistic regression model with backward elimination was used to determine correlates of childhood hunger. Hunger among children was reported in 51% (n = 239) of households in this C-HCFRA sample. Bivariate analyses revealed that hunger status was associated with select maternal characteristics, such as lower educational attainment and Mexican nativity, and household characteristics, including household composition, reliance on friend or neighbor for transportation, food purchase at dollar stores and from neighbors, and participation in school-based nutrition programs. A smaller percentage of households with child hunger participated in school-based nutrition programs (51%) or used alternative food sources, while 131 households were unable to give their child or children a balanced meal during the school year and 145 households during summer months. In the random effects model (RE = small town), increased household composition, full-time unemployment, and participation in the National School Lunch Program were significantly associated with increased odds for child hunger, while participation in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and purchasing food from a neighbor were significantly associated with decreased odds for child hunger. This study not only emphasizes the alarming rates of child hunger among this sample of Mexican-origin families, but also identifies economic and family factors that increased the odds for child hunger as well as community strategies that reduced the odds. It is unsettling that so many children did not participate in school-based nutrition programs, and that many who participated in federal nutrition assistance programs remained hungry. This study underscores the importance of identifying the presence of child hunger among low-income Mexican-origin children in Texas border colonias and increasing access to nutrition-related resources. Hunger-associated health inequities at younger ages among colonia residents are likely to persist across the life span and into old age.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · BMC Pediatrics
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