A study of interview responses to federal and California health surveys revealed that California adults and children from communities receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) reported eating more fruits and vegetables than their counterparts who did not receive the education.
The study combined information on the interventions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's SNAP-Ed program with nearly 6,000 interview responses from the California Health Interview Survey to investigate associations between levels of program reach in low-income areas in California and self-reported physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables, fast food, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
According to the study conducted by researchers at the California Department of Public Health and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the SNAP-Ed program included messages to adults on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and preparing meals at home, the provision of healthful recipes, and demonstrations on how to prepare fruits and vegetables. These educational messages and newly learned skills may have been responsible for changes to the snacks and meals made and eaten by parents at home, which in turn translated into increased fruit and vegetable consumption by their children.
However, higher program reach was associated with greater fast food consumption among teenagers. Teenagers from areas with SNAP-Ed interventions may have opted to use their disposable income on fast food in direct response to more healthful snacks and meals being offered at home. Alternatively, teenagers in the intervention areas may attend schools with more fast food restaurants.
Researchers also found that teenagers in low-reach areas had higher levels of physical activity than teenagers in no-intervention areas.
"Our study provides support to maintain and ideally expand SNAP-Ed interventions as a means to address the obesity epidemic in the United States," researchers wrote.