FNS Emergency Efforts Supported Children’s Nutrition Early in Pandemic

The efforts that the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) took to feed school-aged children in the early months of the COVID pandemic appear to have been successful in that their calorie and nutrient intakes did not decline relative to their peers, according to new research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The data used were collected by Westat as part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2 (WIC ITFPS-2).

The finding appear in Shifts in Sources of Food But Stable Nutritional Outcomes Among Children in the Early Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Westat staff among the coauthors include Christine Borger, Ph.D., Jill DeMatteis, Ph.D., Brenda Sun, M.S., Thea Palmer Zimmerman, M.S., and Sujata Dixit-Joshi, Ph.D.

Researchers used data from WIC ITFPS-2, a longitudinal study of children’s nutrition, to assess whether the dietary intakes of children who turned 6 years old prior to the COVID-19 emergency declaration differed significantly from those who turned 6 years old prior to the emergency declaration. They found significant differences in the 2 groups’ sources of food but not in overall diet quality.

“This is exciting news,” says Dr. Borger, the lead author of the study, “because it indicates that the unprecedented efforts by FNS and local public schools to supply children from low-income families with food likely helped maintain children’s nutrition in the early months of the pandemic when uncertainty was highest.”

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