The current study aimed to (i) describe racial/ethnic disparities in household food and beverage purchases among participants and non-participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and (ii) examine longitudinal associations between SNAP participation and purchases by race/ethnicity.
To describe disparities, we estimated sociodemographic-adjusted mean purchases of seven unhealthy food and beverage groups (e.g. junk food, sugar-sweetened beverages) and four nutrients (e.g. sugar, Na) among white, black and Hispanic SNAP-participating and non-participating households. To examine longitudinal associations, we used multivariable linear regression with household fixed effects.
Food and beverage purchases among low-income (≤250 % federal poverty line) US households (n 30 403) participating in the Nielsen Homescan Panel.
Among non-participants, there were significant black-white disparities (i.e. differences favouring white households) in households' adjusted mean purchases of processed meat, sweeteners, sugar-sweetened beverages, energy and Na. These disparities persisted among SNAP participants. In contrast, the only significant Hispanic-white disparity among non-participants was for Na purchases; this disparity was reduced in magnitude and no longer significant among SNAP-participating households. Additionally, Hispanic households purchased less energy from junk foods than white households, regardless of SNAP status. In longitudinal models accounting for household fixed effects, SNAP participation was associated with increased energy purchased among black households. No other significant longitudinal associations between SNAP and purchase outcomes were observed.
SNAP may not be meeting its potential to improve food and beverage purchases or reduce disparities. Research is needed to identify strategies for ensuring nutritious purchases across all racial/ethnic groups.