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What is the prevalence of food insecurity in Puerto Rico?

Assessing food security status and well-being of Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) participants in Puerto Rico

In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused significant damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and agricultural production, destroying the power grid and causing a major humanitarian crisis. Congress responded by appropriating $1.27 billion in additional funding for disaster relief to be distributed through Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP). The additional funding was used to raise income limits and increase benefit amounts for eligible households.

Congress requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conduct a study to assess the food security, health status, and well-being of Puerto Rico residents. In partnership with Insight Policy Research and Estudios Técnicos, Westat will conduct a representative survey of 3,500+ Puerto Rico households.

The survey, known as the Puerto Rico Health and Well-Being Survey, will assess the:

  • Sociodemographic and economic characteristics of households in Puerto Rico
  • Prevalence of household food security by NAP participation status among various population subgroups, such as households with children and elderly and disabled members

The survey data will support subgroup comparisons between NAP participants and low-income nonparticipants and other subgroups. Two additional data collection efforts will supplement the survey findings:

  • In-depth interviews with NAP participants and low-income nonparticipants
  • A concept map of the Puerto Rican food system, informed by stakeholders who represent one or more stages of that system and are knowledgeable about NAP and the policies that impact its implementation and effectiveness

Westat is managing the household survey, which is multimode (web, paper, and telephone). The survey is in Spanish and in English. While we are coordinating the overall survey effort, Estudios Técnicos, a local data collection firm based in Puerto Rico, is helping to administer the survey.

Westat is selecting the survey sample and coordinating the overall survey effort. We will be sharing analysis and reporting tasks with Insight Policy Research.

The findings from this study will provide baseline estimates of the prevalence of food insecurity in Puerto Rico and an understanding of the experiences following natural disasters.

These results will help USDA identify policies that influence the delivery and effectiveness of NAP, particularly when disaster strikes.

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