Introduction Food insecurity is negatively associated with health; however, health needs may differ among people participating in food assistance programs. Our objectives were to characterize differences in health among people receiving different types of food assistance and summarize strategies for targeted recruitment and outreach of various food insecure populations. Methods We examined health status, behaviors, and health care access associated with food insecurity and receipt of food assistance among US adults aged 20 years or older using data from participants (N = 16,934) of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 through 2010. Results Food insecurity affected 19.3% of US adults (95% confidence interval, 17.9%-20.7%). People who were food insecure reported poorer health and less health care access than those who were food secure (P < .001 for all). Among those who were food insecure, 58.0% received no assistance, 20.3% received only Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, 9.7% received only food bank assistance, and 12.0% received both SNAP and food bank assistance. We observed an inverse relationship between receipt of food assistance and health and health behaviors among the food insecure. Receipt of both (SNAP and food bank assistance) was associated with the poorest health; receiving no assistance was associated with the best health. For example, functional limitations were twice as prevalent among people receiving both types of food assistance than among those receiving none. Conclusion Receipt of food assistance is an overlooked factor associated with health and has the potential to shape future chronic disease prevention efforts among the food insecure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health