JOURNAL ARTICLE

Dietary Behaviors among Public Health Center Clients with Electronic Benefit Transfer Access at Farmers' Markets

Brenda Robles, Christine E Montes, Tabashir Z Nobari, May C Wang, Tony Kuo
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2017, 117 (1): 58-68
27618576

BACKGROUND: Although increasing access to electronic benefit transfer (EBT) at farmers' markets has become a popular strategy for encouraging healthy eating, its relationships to a number of dietary behaviors in low-income populations are not well understood.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the frequency of and relationships between EBT access, fruit and vegetable intake, and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption among public health center (PHC) clients with access to EBT at farmers' markets during 2011-2012.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

PARTICIPANTS/SETTING: Low-income participants recruited from the waiting rooms of five multipurpose PHCs operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Fruit and vegetable and SSB consumption (number per week).

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: Data from the 2012 Los Angeles County Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were analyzed using multivariable regressions, with EBT access at farmers' markets as the primary independent variable. Covariates included EBT use, transportation behaviors, neighborhood attributes, and sociodemographic characteristics.

RESULTS: A total of 1,503 adults participated in the survey (response rate=69%). Of these, 529 reported receiving EBT benefits. Among these benefits recipients, 64% were women, 54% were aged 25 to 44 years, 62% were black, and 75% were unemployed or part-time employed. In multivariable regression analyses, EBT access at farmers' markets was positively associated with higher fruit and vegetable consumption; however, an association to SSB consumption was not demonstrated.

CONCLUSIONS: EBT access at farmers' markets is related to higher fruit and vegetable consumption among PHC clients in Los Angeles County. However, the finding of no association to SSB consumption raises important questions about the need for strategies to discourage EBT recipients' purchase of foods of minimal nutritional value in other venues that accept nutrition assistance program benefits.

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