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The WIC program serves low-income, pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 5. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased food insecurity and reduced access to healthy foods essential during critical periods of growth and development, thereby increasing health disparities.
To determine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food insecurity and food access in an online/virtual nutrition education program conducted in partnership with the WIC Program in Ventura County, CA.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Mixed methods were used in a pilot study with adult English- and Spanish-speaking WIC clients (n = 358) utilizing the Family Kitchen online cooking education program to meet their WIC nutrition education requirements. Surveys were self-administered before and after watching an online cooking education video.
Descriptive statistics and bivariate relationships including Chi-square analyses were conducted to determine the association between demographic variables (e.g,. age, education, race/ethnicity, income, and language spoken at home) with rates of food insecurity measured using the USDA six-item short-form food security (FS) scale and a question about the impact of COVID-19 on food access. Responses regarding food access were coded for themes and subthemes using thematic analysis.
A total of 47.5% of study participants were food insecure (35.5% low FS, 12.1% very low FS) and 36.1% reported difficulty with food access. Older study participants (30+ years) were more food insecure than younger participants (18-29 y) - 51.7% versus 38.8% (P = .05). Spanish-speakers experienced greater difficulty accessing food during the pandemic than English-speakers - 44.1% versus 31.4% (P = 0.02). Major themes identified for these difficulties included fear of leaving the house, lack of food available at local stores, loss of employment, and increased childcare responsibilities.
Low-income, Spanish-speakers are particularly at-risk for higher rates of food insecurity and more difficulty accessing food, due in part to minimal resources and fragile work-life relationships. Increasing cooking skills among WIC parents may support better outcomes. and merits further research.
Share our Strength/No Kid Hungry.
© 2022 Published by Elsevier Inc.