A snapshot of nutrition incentive adaptation during COVID-19
Consensus-building with practitioners
Keywords:Adaptation, Consensus, COVID-19, Pandemic, Delphi, Food Access, Food Insecurity, Nutrition Incentives, SNAP, GusNIP
Exacerbated food insecurity has been among the many challenges presented by the emergence of the novel coronavirus 2019 in the United States. In the wake of the pandemic, expanded focus has turned to the capacities of established federal nutrition assistance programs and emergent nutrition access models to address these challenges. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-based incentive programs, or nutrition incentive programs, are an emergent model designed to provide financial incentives (additional funds) to limited-resource, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-enrolled shoppers to improve the affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables at farm-direct and other retail outlets. While policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders have advanced efforts to evaluate the overall impact and efficacy of nutrition incentive programs, much remains to be understood about how these programs operate under pandemic conditions and how effective they
have been at mitigating the associated increase in food hardship for limited-resource families.
To examine the salient factors influencing nutrition incentive program operations during the pandemic, we applied a three-round, online Delphi process with an expert panel (N=15) of nutrition incentive practitioners between May and October 2021, analyzing the data using thematic analysis and descriptive statistics. The panelists reached consensus on several barriers, opportunities, and innovative adaptations in incentive programming operations, both in the early stages of the pandemic outbreak and that may persist long-term. The findings—which include barriers such as “staff burnout and/or turnover,” opportunities such as “increased collaboration and networking between stakeholders,” and innovative adaptions such as “targeted expansion of SNAP/EBT eligibility”—have implications for the operational and adaptive capacities of SNAP-based incentive program practitioners over the next several years. We provide recommendations for both researchers and nutrition incentive practitioners with an emphasis on further exploring and operationalizing the long-term barrier, opportunity, and innovative adaptation findings to aid the continued development of nutrition incentive program resilience in preparation for future pandemic events or comparable food system shocks.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Cody Gusto, John M. Diaz, Laura A. Warner, Christine Overdevest, Catherine Campbell, Sebastian Galindo
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