Measuring the Effects of a Demonstration to Reduce Childhood Food Insecurity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Nevada Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Project

Measuring the Effects of a Demonstration to Reduce Childhood Food Insecurity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Nevada Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Project

Published: Jan 01, 2021
Publisher: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 121, issue 1, supplement
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Authors

Rebecca Kleinman

Ronette R. Briefel

Background

To reduce childhood hunger, the US Department of Agriculture funded a set of demonstration projects, including the Nevada Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids (HHFK) project.

Objective

The study objective was to test whether the Nevada HHFK project reduced child food insecurity (FI-C) among low-income households with young children.

Design

Households were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups, with outcomes measured using household surveys and administrative data. Survey data were collected at baseline (n=3,088) and follow-up (n=2,074) 8 to 12 months into the project.

Participants/Setting

Eligible households in Las Vegas, NV, had children under age 5 years, received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and had incomes below 75% of the federal poverty level.

Intervention

Between June 2016 and May 2017, treatment households on SNAP received an additional $40 in monthly SNAP benefits per child under age 5 years.

Main Outcome Measures

Key outcomes included FI-C (primary), food security among adults and households, and food expenditures (secondary).

Statistical Analyses Performed

Differences between the treatment and control groups were estimated by a logistic regression model and controlling for baseline characteristics. Analyses were also performed on socioeconomic subgroups.

Results

The Nevada HHFK project did not reduce FI-C (treatment=31.2%, control=30.6%; P=0.620), very low food security among children (P=0.915), or food insecurity among adults (P=0.925). The project increased households’ monthly food expenditures (including SNAP and out-of-pocket food purchases) by $23 (P<0.001).

Conclusions

A demonstration project to reduce FI-C by increasing SNAP benefits to Las Vegas households with young children and very low income did not reduce FI-C or other food-insecurity measures. This finding runs counter to prior research showing that SNAP and similar forms of food assistance have reduced food insecurity. This project was implemented during a period of substantial economic growth in Las Vegas. Future research should explore the role of the economic context, children’s ages, and household income in determining how increases in SNAP benefits affect food insecurity.

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