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Snacking, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and child obesity in low-income households

Christine E. Walsh (Department of Health Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Rebecca Seguin-Fowler (Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas, USA)
Alice Ammerman (Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Karla Hanson (Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Stephanie B. Pitts Jilcott (Department of Public Health, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Jane Kolodinsky (Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA)
Marilyn Sitaker (Department of Ecological Agriculture and Food Systems, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, USA)
Susan Ennett (Department of Health Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 7 May 2020

Issue publication date: 25 January 2021



Snacking contributes to one-quarter of children’s total daily energy intake in the USA, with many snack foods being nutrient-poor and energy-dense. Snacking and sugary beverage consumption have been identified as potential contributors to childhood overweight and obesity and may play a particularly important role among children from socioeconomically disadvantaged households that generally display higher rates of obesity. This exploratory study investigated associations between consumption of snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and overweight and obesity in children from low-income households.


Data from households that participated in a multi-state cost-offset (CO-CSA) community supported agriculture intervention in 2016 and 2017 (n = 305) were analyzed. Fixed effect regression models were used to estimate associations between child monthly consumption of salty snack foods; sweet snack foods and SSBs; and child weight status, accounting for demographic characteristics.


No associations were found between snack or SSB consumption and child overweight. However, household income was significantly, negatively related to all three consumption variables (Salty snacks: ß = −0.09, SE = 0.04, p = 0.02; Sweet snacks: ß= −0.10, SE = 0.04, p = 0.01; SSB: ß= −0.21, SE = 0.05, p = 0.0001). The results suggest that household income may play an important role in children’s snacking and SSB behaviors among more disadvantaged households.

Practical implications

Factors beyond snack food and SSB consumption should be explored to better understand childhood overweight and obesity, and to inform future obesity interventions.


Socioeconomic disparities in childhood obesity are an ongoing policy-relevant issue within the USA and internationally. This study provides new information about child snacking behaviors in a unique, low-income population and contributes to the evidence base regarding the role household context in shaping child consumption behaviors.



This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, under award number 2014–08347. The author is grateful to Drs Alice Ammerman, Karla Hanson and Rebecca Seguin who contributed to the initial study design, content knowledge and review of the manuscript. Additionally, Drs Jane Kolodinsky, Stephanie B. Jilcott Pitts and Marilyn Sitaker reviewed the manuscript and provided extremely valuable expertise and input. The author also thanks Dr Susan Ennett, for support throughout the writing process and the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. All authors reviewed and had final approval of the paper. The author is also grateful to the study participants and communities, without whom this study would not have been possible.


Walsh, C.E., Seguin-Fowler, R., Ammerman, A., Hanson, K., Pitts Jilcott, S.B., Kolodinsky, J., Sitaker, M. and Ennett, S. (2021), "Snacking, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and child obesity in low-income households", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 51 No. 1, pp. 151-163.



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