The study compared the diets of three groups: people on SNAP, people who qualified for it but chose not to participate, and people whose income is too high to receive it. Researchers scored diets as poor, intermediate or ideal, based on how much they adhered to the American Heart Association's 2020 Strategic Impact Goals for diet. Poor diets are those that adhere to less than 40 percent of the AHA 2020 goals, intermediate diets scored 40 to 79.9 percent adherence, and ideal diets scored 80 percent or better.
In the ten-year period studied, 2003-04 to 2013-14, the average diet score among SNAP recipients didn't significantly improve, but improved significantly among both income-eligible nonparticipants and those with higher incomes.
Though there were improvements in consumption of some food groups and nutrients among SNAP participants, like whole grains, whole fruits and dark green vegetables, that group still had the lowest consumption of most healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and shellfish, and nuts, seeds and legumes. They also had the highest consumption of sugary-sweetened drinks.
"Disparities persisted for most food groups and nutrients. Even after adjusting for differences in age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, and income over time, diet-related disparities by SNAP participation status were not materially altered for most dietary components," co-author Junxiu Liu told Gallagher.