The Association Between Consumer Competency and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation on Food Insecurity

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2017 Sep;49(8):657-666.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2017.01.008.


Objective: To examine whether Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants exhibited lower food insecurity when they also demonstrated desirable behaviors in the areas of financial management, nutrition literacy, and conscientious food shopping.

Design: Using data from the US Department of Agriculture's newly launched National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, this study examined whether consumer competency is a factor that affects food insecurity.

Participants: A total of 4,158 participants were included. Sampling weights were applied to represent the population better.

Main outcome measure(s): Very low food insecurity was the dependent variable. Important independent variables were participants' financial management skills, nutrition literacy, and conscientious shopping.

Analysis: Logit and 2-staged least-squares models were used for empirical analyses. The significance of models was tested at .05, .01, and .001.

Results: Consumer competency-related factors such as financial management ability, not defaulting on bill payments within the previous 6 months, and using the nutrition panel frequently when shopping were negatively associated with food insecurity and very low food security after controlling for a number of other demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioral characteristics.

Conclusions and implications: Policies that focus solely on consumer competency programs such as SNAP-Education might marginally achieve program goals but the effect would be modest owing to the unique challenges that SNAP participants may face. Further investigations are needed to understand better why SNAP participants do not benefit successfully from competent consumer practices.

Keywords: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; conscientious consumption; financial literacy; food insecurity; household finance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Food Assistance* / statistics & numerical data
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Poverty
  • United States