Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural Economics (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness

Advisor

Michael Thomsen

Committee Member

Rodolfo Nayga

Second Committee Member

Serena Fuller

Keywords

Social sciences; Health and environmental sceinces; Community nutrition education; Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program; Food access; Food deserts; Food environment

Abstract

This project assesses the effectiveness of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) within the context of supermarket access. EFNEP is a national community nutrition education program that strives to give participants the tools to live healthier lives. Analysis was performed on participants from 16 Arkansas counties that completed EFNEP during 2013 or 2014. The program outcome is measured in terms of the change in Healthy Eating Index (HEI) as calculated from 24-hour diet recalls at program entry and exit. Supermarket locations were obtained from the USDA Food Nutrition Service’s SNAP Retail Locator and represent the food environment near the midpoint of our two-year study period. Each participant’s census block of residence was characterized as being supermarket accessible or non-accessible based on the availability of supermarkets within one mile (ten miles) of the center of urban (rural) census blocks. Linear regressions are used to model changes in HEI scores as a function of program graduation, defined as completing eight or more EFNEP lessons. Our models are estimated with educator fixed effects and include controls for nutrition assistance, age, gender, educational attainment, race, and ethnicity. The key finding is that the effect of graduation on HEI was higher for participants with access to supermarkets. This finding holds across urban and minority subsamples and is robust to measurement of program exposure as graduation or in terms of lessons completed. The implication is that limited access to affordable and healthy foods is a crucial barrier that may impact goals of EFNEP and other educational interventions. Moreover, understanding the role of the food environment enables educators to tailor curriculum to the constraints facing lower-income audiences.

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