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Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Low-Income Urban Mothers' Experiences with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

TitleLow-Income Urban Mothers' Experiences with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsRobbins, S, Ettinger, AK, Keefe, C, Riley, A, Surkan, PJ
JournalJ Acad Nutr Diet
Date PublishedMar 01
ISBN Number2212-2672 (Print)2212-2672
Accession Number28259745
KeywordsFood insecurity, Food stamps, Low-income families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Urban mothers and children
Abstract

BACKGROUND: Food insecurity remains a public health concern in the United States, particularly among low-income urban ethnically diverse families, even with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Limited phenomenologic data exist to capture how programmatic changes to SNAP address the needs of users and why a gap in SNAP use may exist. OBJECTIVE: The primary aim of this study was to examine the experiences of low-income, Baltimore, MD, mothers in applying for and maintaining access to SNAP. Secondary aims included understanding participants' perspectives on the influence of changes in SNAP over a 3-year period and how SNAP fits into the overall system of social services for families. DESIGN: In this qualitative, phenomenologic study, in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 mothers and three focus groups with 20 mothers, for a total sample of 33 mothers receiving SNAP benefits. Ten mothers participated in the first round of data collection (January to May 2010), and 23 in the second round (February to May 2013). PARTICIPANTS/SETTING: Participants were 33 mothers receiving SNAP benefits in Baltimore City, MD. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Baltimore SNAP users' experiences with applying for and maintaining access to SNAP, as well as with program changes to the SNAP program. DATA ANALYSIS: Data were analyzed using an iterative emergent design and phenomenologic approach. A constructivist perspective was implemented throughout the coding process. RESULTS: SNAP functioned as a valuable support system within the broader social safety net for mothers living in poverty, yet participants expressed frustration about the processes of applying for and maintaining benefits due to communication problems and poor integration of services. In applying for and accessing SNAP, positive interactions with caseworkers and previous knowledge of the SNAP program were important for maintaining benefits. Interviews and focus group discussions revealed the need for additional outreach and education about the implemented program changes to build trust and improve access to SNAP among participants. CONCLUSIONS: Improving communication and supporting participants' ability to maintain relationships with the same caseworkers, as well as developing better integration with other aid programs, could improve the SNAP program.