Panel Paper: Within-Month Variability in Adolescents’ Self-Reported Daily Food Insecurity: Comparing SNAP Recipients and Non-Recipients

Friday, November 9, 2018
Harding - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Anna Gassman-Pines1, William Copeland1, Rick Hoyle1 and Candice Odgers2, (1)Duke University, (2)University of California, Irvine

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest of nutrition assistance program in the U.S. By addressing food insecurity, SNAP has the potential to also significantly impact the many adverse child, adolescent, and adult outcomes related to food insecurity, including malnutrition, developmental deficits, and mental health problems. However, there is compelling evidence that most SNAP recipients exhaust their benefits in the first week of the benefit month and buy and consume significantly less food by the end of the month. SNAP recipients with young children also report higher food insecurity at the end of the month than at the beginning. As yet, however, no studies have assessed the daily variation in food insecurity among adolescents. This paper addresses this gap in the literature by using daily survey data from adolescents to determine whether food insecurity varies as a function of the SNAP cycle, and how the within-month variation in food insecurity differs between SNAP and non-SNAP recipient adolescents.

Data and Methods

This study utilizes data from the RAISE project, which includes a daily diary study with 395 adolescents in North Carolina. Adolescents were recruited between April, 2016 and February, 2017 and were asked to answer daily survey questions every day for two weeks (14 days; N for analysis = 5,530 person-days). All daily survey questions were asked and answered via an app that was installed on the adolescents’ phones or a phone provided to them by the research team.

The daily food insecurity scale is a five-item scale:

  • Today, were you worried that food at home would run out before your family got money to buy more? (three point scale from not at all worried to very worried)
  • Today, my only meals included a few kinds of cheap foods because my family was running out of money to buy food (yes/no)
  • Today, I was unable to eat balanced meals because my family didn’t have enough money (yes/no)
  • Today, I ate less today that I felt like I should because my family didn’t have enough money to buy food (yes/no)
  • I had to skip a meal today because my family didn’t have enough money for food (yes/no)

Responses to all items will be summed to create a daily food insecurity score. The survey also collected information from the adolescents’ parents about whether the family received SNAP and, if so, the number of days passed since the participant’s most recent SNAP benefit receipt to identify whether food security is a function of the recency of receipt. Because, in North Carolina, the last digit of the head of household’s social security number determines the day of the month a household receives SNAP benefits, this recency measure is effectively random and exogenous. This serves to control for any unobserved individual differences between participants.

Analysis Plan

Analyses will use multi-level random effects and fixed effects models to examine variation in adolescent food insecurity over time and, in particular, as a function of time since SNAP transfer.