Patterns of Food Assistance Program Participation, Food Insecurity, and Pantry Use among U.S. Households with Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kaitlyn Harper, Emily H. Belarmino, Francesco Acciai, Farryl Bertmann, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study aims to describe differences in participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women and Children (WIC), and school meal programs by household characteristics prior to and during the pandemic, and to examine the association of program participation with food security status and food pantry use. We analyze secondary data (n = 470) from an online survey collected in July/August 2020 using weighted multiple logistic regression models. Participation in SNAP declined among households with children in the first four months of the pandemic, while participation in WIC increased slightly, and participation in school meals remained unchanged. There were significant differences in SNAP, WIC, and school meal programs use by race/ethnicity, income, and urbanicity before and during the pandemic. Food insecurity prevalence was higher among SNAP participants at both periods but the gap between participants and non-participants was smaller during the pandemic. Pantry use and food insecurity rates were consistently higher among federal nutrition assistance program participants, possibly suggesting unmet food needs. These results highlight the need for increased program benefits and improved access to food, particularly during periods of hardship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number988
JournalNutrients
Volume14
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Child food security
  • Federal nutrition assistance programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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