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P10 Child Well-Being in the Context of Food Insecurity: A Nutritional Assessment of the Secret Meals for Hungry Children Program

      Background

      In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 19.8% of children currently experience food insecurity. To reduce the negative health outcomes associated with childhood food insecurity, West Alabama Food Bank (WAFB) distributes food to vulnerable children in elementary schools through their Secret Meals for Hungry Children program (SMP). This program ensures nutritional continuity over the weekend. There are no nutritional guidelines for the SMP meals; however, WAFB aims to provide food items based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

      Objective

      The objective of this pilot study was to determine the degree to which the nutritional content of the food distributed in the SMP by WAFB meets the nutritional guidelines as outlined by the 2020-2025 DGA.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      This study implemented an exploratory research design via qualitative and quantitative methods, including photos and nutrition label content analysis. Two qualitative interviews were conducted with WAFB leadership to contextualize the SMP.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      Carbohydrates, protein and sodium content for the items in the SMP bag were compared to the DGA for children 4-8 years of age to determine if the contents sufficiently supplemented daily recommendations. Semi-structured interviews were analyzed in NVivo 12® and themes were identified.

      Results

      All 3 measures of nutrition (carbohydrates, protein, and sodium) comprised 89%,78% and 68% of the recommended guidelines for a child 4-8 years of age, respectively. Two key themes arose from the interviews: SMP organization and SMP impact on children's level of food security and overall wellbeing.

      Conclusion

      The results indicate that the SMP, according to the DGA, fills the hunger gap for children experiencing food insecurity. SMP provisions were reported to improve overall behavior and functioning at school. These demonstrate the significance of supplemental meals with respect to enhancing behavioral and academic performance for children from vulnerable communities. The implementation of such programs may decrease inequities in learning and overall well-being.
      Funding None.

      Appendix. Supplementary data