- Author: Brianna Aguayo Villalon
- Editor: suzanne rauzon
- Editor: Ron Strochlic
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—known as SNAP nationally and CalFresh in California—provides food benefits to over 22 million low-income families in the US to supplement their grocery budget. New Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) research demonstrates that sending encouraging text messages to SNAP participants helps promote nutrition resources and stimulate positive feelings about the program. NPI researchers collaborated with the University of California, San Diego, Center for Community Health, to partner with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to send 5 monthly behavioral science-informed nutrition text messages to approximately 170,000 CalFresh participants. The text messages were sent in English and Spanish and provided information about the benefits of buying and consuming California-grown fruits and vegetables. Each text-message included a link to a website which provided information about selecting, storing, and preparing fruits and vegetables, and budget-friendly recipes. Results highlighted that participants gained better knowledge on these subjects, as well as feeling good about participating in CalFresh and appreciating the program's efforts to help participants eat healthfully. Survey results demonstrated that 90% of respondents appreciated the text-messages. This research brief demonstrates that further communication efforts through text-messages from SNAP agencies can help program participants eat more healthfully and improve their views on SNAP. The brief was developed by NPI researchers Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic and Wendi Gosliner and Sena Karvas from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.
- Author: Brianna Aguayo Villalon
- Editor: lauren au
A recent study found that higher infant diet quality scores observed in Hispanic Spanish-speaking participants account for certain racial and ethnic variations in later diet quality, suggesting that enhancing infant nutrition could mitigate early childhood diet disparities. Researchers focused on data from participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, to analyze nutritional practices based on racial and ethnic differences among young children. The researchers found that infant diet quality among Hispanic Spanish-speaking families accounted for 25% of later diet disparities based on racial and ethnic differences. The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition, including authors Lauren Au, Charles Arnold, and Sarina Lin from the University of California, Davis, Department of Nutrition, Lorrene Ritchie from the Nutrition Policy Institute, and Edward Frongillio from the University of South Carolina, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior.
Nearly 40% of community college students experience food insecurity and may skip meals because they can't afford to eat. The Nutrition Policy Institute, along with the University of California and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, endorsed the Food for Thought Act, bicameral legislation that would bring free meal programs to community college campuses and minority serving institutions—helping address food insecurity for students at those institutions. The Food for Thought Act will also provide funding to conduct campus outreach and provide information to participating students on eligibility for federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and collect data on food insecurity on campuses to expand anti-hunger programming. Grant funding can also be used to update much needed food infrastructure on campus that students can use and build food pantries and community gardens on campus. The Food For Thought Act was introduced by Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and joined by Representative Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) on July 20, 2023. The legislation has numerous co-sponsors in both the House and Senate and endorsements from experts in food insecurity and higher education.
The California Nutrition Incentive Program, the GusNIP in California, provides CalFresh, known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, shoppers with a dollar-for-dollar match when using their EBT card to purchase California-grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets. The program recently expanded in pilot form to a few grocery stores. A new evaluation report presents detailed findings from interviews conducted by University of California Nutrition Policy Institute researchers with CalFresh shoppers from a sample of farmers' markets and other retail outlets newly implementing CNIP. Researchers explored CalFresh shoppers' experiences using CNIP; CNIP's impact on CalFresh shoppers' food purchasing decisions; and CalFresh shoppers' general feelings about the program. As one participant said, “I would say that this is probably one of the most important things that [policy makers] can do as far as helping to bring access to lower income people to fresh fruits and vegetables.” In summary, CalFresh shoppers across different market types (farmers markets and grocery stores) had positive experiences with CNIP. Participants described the program as helpful, noting that CNIP allowed them to buy more fruits and vegetables, purchase more CA-grown and organic fruits and vegetables and widen their selection of fresh produce. Participants from all market types were supportive of the program continuing and expanding to grocery stores as a means of increasing access to fruits and vegetables for CalFresh participants.
Virtually all San Diego County CalFresh participants (known as SNAP nationwide) have been receiving monthly text messages in multiple languages encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables and directing them to a dedicated multilingual website with more information. The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency may be the first SNAP administering agency in the US to use text messages to share nutrition information and promote a healthy diet. This effort began in 2020 in partnership with the University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute and the UC San Diego Center for Community Health. Building on previous survey results, UC researchers conducted focus groups in English and Spanish with text message recipients to elicit their experience of the messages. CalFresh participants reported overwhelmingly positive perceptions of the effort, including increased fruit and vegetable intake, trying unfamiliar produce items, improved perceptions of CalFresh, and feelings that the agency cares about their health and well-being. Participants want the effort to continue with more frequent messages. Text messaging participants is a relatively low-cost approach that SNAP agencies can use to encourage diet improvement, optimization of food dollars, and to enhance perceptions of and experiences with SNAP. Focus group results were published in the journal Nutrients by Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic, and Wendi Gosliner from the Nutrition Policy Institute, Blanca Melendrez and Shanna Wright from the UC San Diego Center for Community Health, and Hao Teng from Teachers College, Colombia University.