Online Program

Assessing the impact of SNAP-ed census-tract targeting on access to nutrition programming for low-income individuals

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vanessa Buchthal, DrPH, Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Daniel Alexander, MURP, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Laura Hsu, DrPH, John A Burns School of Medicine, Office of Public Health Sciences, university of hawaii at manoa, Honolulu
Introduction: One method for locating poverty geographically is census tracts where >50% of residents are below a poverty threshold. USDA has used this approach to define geographic limits for SNAP-Ed programming. Many states report inability to reach low-income audiences effectively using this criterion; USDA has indicated willingness to consider other approaches, but requires states to propose new criterion. Purpose: Document impact on reach of limiting programming to census tracts with <50% of population <185% of federal poverty level; demonstrate an alternate methodology for identifying highest-poverty areas within a state. Methods: Data on individuals in poverty and poverty rate was retrieved for all US census tracts, and analyzed to determine percentage of low-income population reachable through tracts with <50% <185%FPL. GIS-maps were developed to show geographic trends, and correlations between population size, density, and urbanicity examined. An alternate methodology was developed for Hawai‘i, clustering census tracts within locally-recognized communities, determined proportion of state's low-income population within each community, and ranking these results. Results: Census tract targeting reached 27% of low-income individuals nationally, with wide disparities between states -- 3% in Vermont to 43% in Mississippi/Texas. Reach was correlated with states' poverty level (r=.661 , p<.001) and population size (r=.424 , p=.002) In Hawai‘i, census tract methodology reached 6% of low-income residents. The alternate methodology increased reach to 50%, by targeting only 10 communities. Discussion: Targeting low-income individuals by census tract alone may result in poor reach; targeting by proportion of state's low income population located within communities can improve reach substantially.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate the impact of current SNAP-Ed census tract targeting criterion on the ability of different states to reach their low-income populations. Identify and compare an alternate approach for maximizing reach.

Keyword(s): Federal Policy, Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the PI of an evaluation contract with the State of Hawaii Department of Health's SNAP-Ed program for the past 3 years, and have been involved with SNAP-Ed on a regional and national level. My research focuses on food insecurity coping strategies and the relationship between environment and dietary behavior among low-income families.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.