The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Examining Food Security Among Children in Households Participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Implications for Human Rights

Friday, January 17, 2014: 10:30 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon E, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Aakanksha Sinha, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Andrew D. Reynolds, MEd, Doctoral Student, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Margaret Lombe, PhD, associate Professor, Boston College, Boston, MA
Background: The right to food is a fundamental human right guaranteed to everyone.  However, millions of Americans continue to be food insecure despite participating in SNAP (USDA 2012). With the recent economic downturns, current estimates of food insecure households stand at 18 Million; with 16.7 million of those affected being children (USDA, 2012). Evidence on the effect of SNAP on the welfare of participating households exists (Wilde & Nord, 2005). Little is known on how food insecure households navigate the risk associated with food insecurity. The evidence in place suggests that such households are likely to turn to informal supports to mitigate food insecurity. Focusing specifically on households participating in SNAP, we examine the moderating effects of informal food assistance on household and child food security.

Method: The study uses data from the 2010 Current Population Survey (USDA-ERS, 2010); an archive providing data on the welfare of American households.  CPS also includes data on the use of formal (SNAP) and informal food assistance networks. We focus specifically on a sub-sample of households below 185% of the poverty line who answered questions on household and child food security (N=1,186). Two OLS regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, household food security, SNAP participation, and informal food supports vs. child food security.  The first model included all study variables while the second, which assessed the moderation effects of informal food supports on child security, included all study variables and an interaction term (household food security X informal food supports). 

Results:  A number of respondent’s characteristics, including age of the head of household, race, immigrant status, being a female-headed household, having fewer children, lower informal food supports, and greater household food security significantly predicted child food security. Further, there was no difference in child food security in households with high or marginal levels of food security with respect to whether or not the household received informal food assistance.  However, variations were observed in child food security between households with low or very low levels of food security  in relations to whether or not the household received informal food assistance (CFS mean = 5.82 vs. 6.49).  More specifically, food insecure households that accessed informal food supports had lower levels of child food security. 

Conclusion:  Results of this study highlight the risks faced by households with low food security and their reliance on informal food assistance despite participating in SNAP.  These results suggest that informal food assistance may be an important avenue for the welfare of low-income households; they help make-up for what may be lacking in the food stamp program. This may be, especially, the case for households in great need and fewer resources. Recognizing that access to food is a fundamental human right, state providers may need to shift from a paradigm of provision of food as safety-net or charity to a rights-based perspective that actively seeks to ensure that all, especially children, are guaranteed the right to food.