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P36 The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security Status and Food Access Among SNAP-Eligible Utahns

      Background

      COVID-19 has the potential to impact the health of individuals experiencing food insecurity and reduced food access. A national collaboration examined this impact across the United States, including Utah.

      Objective

      The objective of this study was to explore the effect of COVID-19 on perceived food access challenges, barriers, and compensatory strategies among SNAP-eligible Utahns.

      Study Design

      A 76-item survey was emailed to all SNAP-eligible Utahns (N = 24,763) in July 2020. The USDA's 6-item Food Security Module was used to determine food security prior to and since COVID-19. Additional questions asked about food access and eating/purchasing behaviors. Participants (n = 521) were predominately White (75%) females (77%).

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      Level of agreement for using compensatory food access strategies was summed (score range: 7-42; higher scores reflecting increased use) and assessed for mean differences using ANOVA based on food insecurity classification. Rating scales were used to measure food access challenges and barriers to using nutrition assistance (4-5 item scales) during COVID-19. Spearman correlations examined associations between challenges/barriers and degree of food insecurity.

      Results

      Of participants (n = 358) who were food insecure, 74% were White and 77% were female. Food insecure individuals prior to and since COVID-19 were more likely than food secure participants to use compensatory strategies to ensure food affordability during COVID-19 (mean score = 30 vs 26, respectively; P = 0.002). Degree of food insecurity was associated with barriers to using nutrition assistance, including difficulty traveling to apply/recertify (r = 0.24; P < 0.001) and frequency of experiencing food access challenges during COVID-19 (r = 0.16-0.33; P ≤ 0.002).

      Conclusion

      Challenges with food access and barriers to utilizing nutrition assistance during COVID-19 are associated with food insecurity among SNAP-eligible individuals, potentially resulting in reliance upon more compensatory food affordability strategies. Efforts should be taken to minimize these barriers to ensure adequate food quantity and quality among food insecurity individuals.
      Funding Utah State University Extension.

      Appendix. Supplementary data