OBJECTIVE:

This article investigates the association between Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation and child food security by using data from the largest national survey of the food security of SNAP participants to date.

METHODS:

The analysis used a survey of nearly 3000 households with children and a quasi-experimental research design that consisted of 2 sets of comparisons. Using a cross-sectional sample, we compared information collected from SNAP households within days of program entry with information collected from a contemporaneous sample of SNAP households that had participated for ∼6 months. Next, by using a longitudinal sample, we compared baseline information collected from new-entrant SNAP households with information from those same households 6 months later. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to estimate associations between SNAP and child food security.

RESULTS:

SNAP participation was associated with an approximately one-third decrease in the odds of children being food insecure in both samples. In the cross-sectional analysis only, SNAP was also associated with a decrease in the odds of children experiencing severe food insecurity (designated very low food security). Findings were qualitatively robust to different empirical specifications.

CONCLUSIONS:

After controlling for other possible confounders, we found children in households that had participated in SNAP for 6 months experienced improvements in food security. On the basis of these findings, we conclude SNAP serves a vital role in improving the health and well-being of low-income children by increasing food security. Future research is needed to determine whether specific groups of children experience differential improvements in food security.

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