Resource

Who Is Food Insecure? Implications for Targeted Recruitment and Outreach, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2010

Image of two people at a food bank

Food insecurity is associated with poorer self-rated health, more frequent days of poor health, higher body mass index, more symptoms of depression, and a higher prevalence of diabetes, smoking, and functional limitations. However, receipt of food assistance is actually tied to poorer health. The relationship between the food assistance and health needs to be further explored.

Abstract

Introduction: Food insecurity is negatively associated with health; however, health needs may differ among people participating in food assistance programs. Our objectives were to characterize differences in health among people receiving different types of food assistance and summarize strategies for targeted recruitment and outreach of various food insecure populations.

Methods: We examined health status, behaviors, and health care access associated with food insecurity and receipt of food assistance among US adults aged 20 years or older using data from participants (N = 16,934) of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 through 2010.

Results: Food insecurity affected 19.3% of US adults (95% confidence interval, 17.9%–20.7%). People who were food insecure reported poorer health and less health care access than those who were food secure (P < .001 for all). Among those who were food insecure, 58.0% received no assistance, 20.3% received only Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, 9.7% received only food bank assistance, and 12.0% received both SNAP and food bank assistance. We observed an inverse relationship between receipt of food assistance and health and health behaviors among the food insecure. Receipt of both (SNAP and food bank assistance) was associated with the poorest health; receiving no assistance was associated with the best health. For example, functional limitations were twice as prevalent among people receiving both types of food assistance than among those receiving none.

Conclusion: Receipt of food assistance is an overlooked factor associated with health and has the potential to shape future chronic disease prevention efforts among the food insecure. 

Journal: Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy.