Timing of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits and families’ home food environments

Susan You, Rosemary Ansah, Alexa Mullins, Sara B. Johnson, Jamie Perin, Sarah J. Flessa, Rachel L.J. Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are designed to buffer families from food insecurity, but studies suggest that most benefits are used by midmonth. In this study, we examined whether the home food environment varies across the SNAP benefits cycle among participating families . METHODS: Participants in this mixed-methods study were 30 SNAP participants who were primary caregivers of a child ages 4–10 years. The home food environment was measured 1 week before SNAP benefit replenishment and again within 1 week after replenishment by using the Home Food Inventory. Household food insecurity was assessed by using the US Department of Agriculture Household Food Security Survey. Wilcoxon rank tests were used to evaluate changes in median Home Food Inventory subscales and food insecurity pre- to post-replenishment. Qualitative interviews with participating caregivers were conducted to explore contextual factors influencing the home food environment across the benefits cycle. RESULTS: Participants had significantly fewer types of vegetables (median: 7.0 vs 8.5, median difference 1.73, 95% confidence interval: 0.5–2.5, P 5 .03) and higher food insecurity preversus post-replenishment (median: 4.0 vs 2.0, median difference 1, 95% confidence interval: 0.1–1.5, P 5 .03). Caregivers described employing a variety of intentional strategies to reduce cyclic variation in food availability. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that there is relatively limited cyclic variation in the home food environment among families participating in SNAP. This may be explained by a number of assistance programs and behavioral strategies caregivers used to make food last and buffer against scarcity. Future research should evaluate the relationship between the degree of home food environment changes and child health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025056
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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