A recent study by the USDA Economic Research Service and University of Minnesota has found significant relationship between participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and time spent preparing and eating meals.
Using 2004-2010 data from the Current Population Survey's Food Security Supplement and the American Time Use Survey to estimate the relationship between SNAP participation and time spent cooking and eating (at home and away from home), researchers compared time allocation of SNAP-participant households with similar low-income, non-participant households matched by income level, household size, race, urban/rural residence, and the respondent's sex and employment status.
During the study period, researchers found the average low-income household (both participants and non-participants) spent 35 minutes per day preparing food and 70 minutes per day eating.
According to the study, SNAP in some cases can expand participants' meal budgets, leading to purchases of more expensive, ready-to-eat or easily prepared food, and therefore less time spent preparing food.
Married couple households (with or without children) receiving SNAP benefits, for example, spend 15 fewer minutes preparing food than similar married households that do not receive SNAP.
But other SNAP participants, specifically single-person households with children, actually spend more time preparing food – 7 minutes more, when compared to similar single-adult households that do not participate in the program.
In both types of households, SNAP participation was associated with less time eating; married participant households spent 8 fewer minutes eating than similar non-participant households, while single-adult SNAP households spent 9 fewer minutes eating than similar non-participant households.
If decreased eating time is due to a greater frequency of less healthful "on-the-run" meals, these households may be compromising nutrition for convenience, the study concluded.
Source: USDA ERS