Health Behavior Changes Among Adults in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, Los Angeles County, California


Caldwell, J.I.; Kuo, T.; Shah-Patel, D.; Cohen, D.A.


Purpose and Objectives The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), the educational branch of SNAP, can play an important role in improving dietary outcomes, eliminating food insecurity, and preventing chronic disease among low-income populations. This study examined the effects of local SNAP-Ed efforts on self-reported health behaviors and body mass index (BMI) over a 1-year period, using data collected from intercept surveys of program-eligible adults. Intervention Approach From 2016 to 2020, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health partnered with 24 community-based organizations to provide nutrition education and to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes in the community. Evaluation Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2018 and repeated in 2019 to measure 6 outcomes describing population-level changes in health behaviors and BMI. The study recruited 4 samples: 2 samples from outside selected supermarkets (2018, n = 2,098; 2019, n = 2,323) and 2 samples from participants at SNAP-Ed class sites (2018, n = 651; 2019, n = 569). Results While study results showed an increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables and in vigorous physical activity, they also showed an increase in BMI and high consumption of unhealthy foods. Participating in SNAP-Ed classes was positively associated with several health behaviors but no change in BMI. Participants who experienced food insecurity had worse health behavior outcomes than those who did not experience this condition. Implications for Public Health SNAP-Ed interventions appear to have a favorable effect on fruit and vegetable consumption, but increases in BMI suggest that unhealthy food consumption is abundant and may be counteracting the benefits gained from eating more fruits and vegetables. Future efforts should take these results into consideration and optimize enrollment in nutrition assistance programs. These efforts should include coordinating with local programs to increase healthy food access for at-risk low-income populations in Los Angeles County. © 2021. All Rights Reserved.