Food assistance programs for children afford mixed dietary quality based on HEI-2010

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Backpack programs across the United States distribute easy-to-prepare foods in a backpack to potentially food-insecure students on Fridays to help reduce weekend hunger. This study used Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) to assess foods provided in Montana backpack programs. Healthy Eating Index 2010 measures compliance with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and is a tool to assess the diet quality of foods provided in supplemental food assistance programs. We hypothesized that HEI-2010 scores would be of average dietary quality. One randomly selected menu was collected from each Montana backpack program (n = 5) from the 2011-2012 academic year. Each food provided was analyzed for diet quality using HEI-2010 to obtain component and total scores. Descriptive statistics and t tests were calculated to assess whether mean HEI-2010 component scores and total scores differed significantly (P < .05) from the maximum scores. The mean total score for HEI-2010 was significantly lower than the maximum score of 100 (58.65; SD, 15.59; P = .004). Analysis resulted in significantly lower mean scores for total vegetables (2.26; SD, 1.37; P = .011), greens and beans (0; SD, 0; P < .001), fatty acids (0; SD, 0; P < .001), and sodium (3.90; SD, 2.52; P = .006). Dietary quality of backpack programs may further improve with information sharing between programs about the availability of specific food group items. To better suit children's nutritional needs and increase HEI-2010 scores, researchers, practitioners, and the food industry should identify food options for the backpack program that are easy to prepare, appealing, and affordable.




Byker, Carmen, and Teresa Smith. “Food Assistance Programs for Children Afford Mixed Dietary Quality Based on HEI-2010.” Nutrition Research 35, no. 1 (January 2015): 35–40. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2014.10.009.
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