Food Insecurity and Family Well-Being during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Evidence from Daily Surveys of Families in Rural Pennsylvania
Gordon, Nora E
This paper explores patterns of economic and psychological hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic in a predominantly Latinx sample of low-income parents and their elementary school-aged children in rural Pennsylvania (N = 272). These families participated in an evaluation of a local, school-based food assistance program, the Power Packs Project (PPP), wherein parents reported their levels of food insecurity and parent and child well-being from January to May 2020 via daily text-message surveys. Longitudinal, mixed effects models revealed that food insecurity, parent depression and irritability, and child sadness and misbehavior all significantly increased after COVID-19-related school closures, while negative parenting behaviors were unchanged. In the months afterwards, families only experienced decreases in food insecurity and parent depression. Food insecurity decreased most for those who continued participating in the PPP but was also accompanied by greater increases in food insecurity on the day that schools closed. Similarly, SNAP participation was associated with spikes across more food insecurity measures when schools closed compared to those who did not participate in SNAP but also uniquely predicted declines in child food insecurity. Lastly, being food insecure prior to the start of the pandemic predicted greater increases in food insecurity on the day that schools closed but also appeared to facilitate families’ recovery upon the most severe measures of food insecurity.
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