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The Relationship Between Food Insecurity, Produce Intake and Behaviors, Hemoglobin Levels, BMI, and Health Status Among Women Participating in the West Virginia WIC and WIC FMNP Programs

By Mayle A


Women are vulnerable to food insecurity, especially those who participate in food assistance programs. There is a paucity of data in West Virginia, particularly in the Mid-Ohio Valley region, where this study took place. There are numerous studies that have shown a direct correlation between food insecurity, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and poor health biomarkers such as anemia, diabetes, and obesity. This study was designed to examine the relationship among household food security to iron intake, BMI, produce intake, and produce intake behaviors of adult women from the Mid-Ohio Valley region of West Virginia participating in the West Virginia WIC and WIC FMNP programs.

Females aged 18 years and older who were not pregnant, and attended the WIC clinic in Parkersburg, West Virginia were recruited during their regular clinic visits. A survey was administered that included a 6-item global healthy survey designed specifically for mothers’ nutrition and health, a 10-item food security module, a produce intake and behavior checklist, and a depression scale developed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies. Anthropometrics and clinical data such as height, weight, BMI and hemoglobin levels were obtained from WIC clinic records. T-tests, Pearson’s r and Kendall’s Tau-b correlations were used to assess the relationship of household food security and participation in the WIC FMNP to produce intake behaviors.

Participants (n = 117) were 26 ± 5.7 years old, had a BMI of 30.4 kg/m2 ± 6.7 kg/m2 (n = 117), and a hemoglobin of 12.07g/dl ± 1.79 g/dl (n = 117). Overall, 64 (54.7%) participants were fully food secure, while 53 (45.3%) were not fully food secure and had experienced some degree of food insecurity during the previous 12 months, with 25 (21.4%), 21 (17.9%), and 7 (6%) living in households characterized by marginal, low, and very low food security, respectively. According to the depression scale, 33 of 110 (30%) participants had some degree of depression. Daily vegetable (n = 117), fruit (n = 114), and total produce servings (n = 114) were 2.29 ± 1.27, 2.42 ± 1.15, and 4.73 ± 2.15, respectively. Of the study participants who provided produce intake data, 64.1% met the daily recommended vegetable intake of 2-2.5 cups/day, 81.6% met the daily recommended fruit intake of 1.5-2 cups/day, and 68.4% met the daily recommended produce intake. Food insecure participants showed significantly higher rates of depression than food secure participants (r = .254, p = .003) as well as higher food pantry use (r = .280, p = .001). On the other hand, higher food security was associated with more reliable transportation to obtain food (r = -.225, p = .006), higher use of fishing to obtain food (r = -.180, p = .028) and approached significance for hunting to obtain food (r = -.159, p = .052). Use of the WIC FMNP showed significance for perceived control (p = .019), self-efficacy (p = .051), and enabling domains (p = .051). Other parameters were not significantly related to household food security or participation in WIC FMNP.

Overall, this study demonstrated that in the Mid-Ohio Valley Region of West Virginia, food insecure women in the West Virginia WIC program had a greater risk of depression, higher food pantry use, lower rates of reliable transportation to obtain food, and lower use of extra methods to obtain food such as hunting and fishing in comparison to their food secure counterparts in the WIC program. Women who did not participate in the West Virginia WIC FMNP program had lower produce intake related behaviors, including perceived control, enabling domain, and self-efficacy than those that did.

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Date Added
November 16, 2017

Mayle A (2015) 'The Relationship Between Food Insecurity, Produce Intake and Behaviors, Hemoglobin Levels, BMI, and Health Status Among Women Participating in the West Virginia WIC and WIC FMNP Programs'. Master's Thesis, Ohio University. Available online: https://etd.ohiolink.edu/ap/10?0::NO:10:P10_ACCESSION_NUM:ohiou1448964317