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Healthy Eating Value Systems Among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participants: A Qualitative Study

Published:January 22, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2022.01.005

      Abstract

      Objective

      To understand how families receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) conceptualize healthy eating and its relationship to child development.

      Methods

      This study is a secondary analysis of in-depth, in-home qualitative interviews. 30 caregivers with children between the ages of 4 and 10 years old participating in SNAP in Baltimore, MD, were asked about food purchasing resources and strategies. Two independent coders re-analyzed primary data using an iterative process to identify a priori themes related to caregivers’ conceptualization of healthy eating and emergent themes related to the ways families use SNAP benefits. Themes were identified via content analysis and revised until consensus was reached.

      Results

      Participants demonstrated knowledge of nutritious food groups, specific unhealthy nutrients, and the importance of food in managing chronic conditions. However, the importance of nutrition was balanced with the need for ready-made foods that children could safely prepare on their own, shelf stable goods, and low-cost foods. Emergent themes identified caregivers’ views of health-related impacts of food beyond nutrition, including the role of food as: a parenting tool to support child socialization and development, a means of creating experiences unique to childhood, and a mechanism for promoting family cohesion.

      Conclusions

      This study suggests families receiving SNAP use benefits to best serve children's well-being while conceptualizing the child health benefits of food as extending beyond nutrition. Future policy interventions aimed at optimizing SNAP should address the potential for nutrition assistance to foster positive child social and emotional development among low-income families while meeting nutritional needs.

      Keywords

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