As we begin to reflect on policy changes and how they impacted people during covid, It’s of utmost importance that we assess what enhanced our wellbeing and what did not. We know that a significant determinant of health, especially in children, is access to healthy food and permanent food security.
One of the many policies during Covid was the temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which provided supplementary income for numerous families. These additional dollars had no restriction on use.
A recent study in Health Affairs by Adams et al. examined food security and children’s dietary intake after three months of the program expansion. They discovered that with the additional funds, food and beverages were the most commonly purchased items, particularly in households with inadequate food security. Additionally, the expansion also contributed to decreases in children’s consumption of added sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweetened fruit beverages. Furthermore, they did not observe changes in other dietary intakes.
These results are intriguing in several ways. When given additional resources, those with food security issues do solve for those issues with added purchases. One primary concern has been if there is an allocation of dollars without specific restrictions, those funds would not have the desired effect. Though these funds were not explicitly earmarked for food, a surprising discovery was that families purchased needed items. Additionally, families did change their purchase habits with the funds in a manner that enhanced health.
These discoveries are critical. Knowing what works and doesn’t is instrumental in understanding what resources are crucial when resources are constrained. Let us use these positive learnings to help re-think our policies with these to help t enhance our goals of improved health and wellness, especially in those with the greatest need.