The Nutrition Benefits Participation Gap: Barriers to Uptake of SNAP and WIC Among Latinx American Immigrant Families

  • Debra J. Pelto
  • Alex Ocampo
  • Olga Garduño-Ortega
  • Claudia Teresa Barraza López
  • Francesca Macaluso
  • Julia Ramirez
  • Javier González
  • Francesca GanyEmail author
Original Paper


To examine nutrition benefit under-enrollment in Latinx American immigrant families, we administered a survey to 100 adults attending a NY Latinx American community serving organization. We used a logistic regression approach to analyze misinformation impact on enrollment, and examined non-enrollment explanations, among participants in whose families a child or pregnant or breastfeeding woman appeared SNAP- or WIC-eligible. Among households (N = 51) with ≥ 1 SNAP-eligible child, 49% had no child enrolled. Reasons included repercussion fears (e.g. payback obligation, military conscription, college aid ineligibility, child removal, non-citizen family member penalties), and logistical barriers. In multivariable regression models, having heard the rumor that SNAP/WIC participation makes unauthorized status family members vulnerable to being reported to the government was associated with an 85% lower enrollment rate (OR 0.15, CI 0.03, 0.94). Misinformation impedes nutrition benefit participation. A multi-level intervention is necessary to inform potential applicants and providers regarding eligibility criteria and erroneous rumors, along with an informed discussion of the risks versus benefits of using resources, especially as public charge criteria change.


SNAP WIC Public charge Nutrition Immigration 



The authors would like to thank Sonya J. Smyk, Memorial Sloan Kettering, for editorial support. She was not compensated beyond her regular salary.


This study received funding from the National Institutes of Health (Grant Nos. P30 CA008748; U54 CA137788; T32 CA009461).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no relevant conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA

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