UNE researcher to examine impact of pandemic on supermarket purchases among low-income families

Michele Polacsek
Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.P.H.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to lower-income families, but it also catalyzed the expansion of benefits to those families in the form of increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) eligibility and accessibility.

Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of public health and director of UNE’s Center for Excellence in Public Health, is co-principal Investigator on a newly awarded research project to assess the effects of those increases on the nutritional quality of supermarket food purchases of lower-income families.

In partnership with a large supermarket chain, Polacsek will leverage a unique data source to study the quality of participants’ food purchases. She says evaluating these unprecedented federal benefits changes will help inform future policy development to support greater nutrition and health equity through federal assistance programs.

The project, “Evaluating the Impact of Emergency Food Benefits in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on Supermarket Purchases among Families with Children,” is funded through Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Co-investigators on the study include Joshua Petimar, Sc.D.; Jason Block, M.D. M.P.H.; Eric Rimm, Sc.D.; and Anne Thorndike, M.D., M.P.H.