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Health Aff (Millwood) ; 41(11): 1616-1625, 2022 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2109348


Many low-income Americans experience food insecurity, which may have been exacerbated by economic instability during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In this study we assessed the impact of Healthy Helping, a short-term fruit and vegetable incentive program aimed at alleviating food insecurity and improving diet quality for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants, on grocery purchases, using transaction data from a large supermarket chain in North Carolina. We compared Healthy Helping participants' purchases of key food groups before and during the program with purchases by control shoppers participating in federal food assistance programs during the same period. Healthy Helping enrollment was associated with a $26.95 increase in monthly spending on fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes-an increase of 2.5 grams of fiber per 1,000 kilocalories purchased-and other shifts in the composition of food purchases, relative to control shoppers. These findings suggest that the program increased healthy food purchases while also increasing dollar sales at participating retailers. On average, participants did not use the full benefit; future research should explore factors associated with non- or underuse of benefits, to inform program design and outreach.

COVID-19 , Food Assistance , Humans , Motivation , North Carolina , Pandemics , Vegetables , Fruit , Food Supply
Nutrients ; 14(20)2022 Oct 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2082304


Understanding the views of families from low-income backgrounds about inequities in healthy food access and grocery purchase is critical to food access policies. This study explored perspectives of families eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on healthy food access in physical and online grocery environments. The qualitative design used purposive sampling of 44 primary household food purchasers with children (aged ≤ 8), between November 2020-March 2021, through 11 online focus groups and 5 in-depth interviews. Grounded theory was used to identify community-level perceived inequities, including influences of COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP and online grocery services. The most salient perceived causes of inequitable food access were neighborhood resource deficiencies and public transportation limitations. Rural communities, people with disabilities, older adults, racially and ethnically diverse groups were perceived to be disproportionately impacted by food inequities, which were exacerbated by the pandemic. The ability to use SNAP benefits to buy foods online facilitated healthy food access. Delivery fees and lack of control over food selection were barriers. Barriers to healthy food access aggravated by SNAP included social stigma, inability to acquire cooked meals, and inadequate amount of monthly funds. Findings provide a foundation for policy redesign to promote equitable healthy food systems.

COVID-19 , Food Assistance , Child , Humans , Aged , Food Supply , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Poverty