Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Food insecurity

Time to eat? The relationship between food security and food-related time use

Timothy KM Beattya1, M Susie Nanneya2 and Charlotte Tuttlea1 c1

a1 Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, 313 Ruttan Hall, 1994 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

a2 Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA


Objectives In the present analysis, we seek to establish a relationship between time spent on food-related activities and food security status as well as between time spent on these activities and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program) participation and benefit level.

Design After matching similar households using Coarsened Exact Matching, we estimate the relationship between food-related time, food insecurity and SNAP participation and benefit level using a comprehensive data set that combines two subsets of the Current Population Survey from years 2004–2010: the Food Security Supplement and the American Time Use Survey.

Setting City, suburban and rural areas of the USA.

Subjects Non-institutionalized US population over the age of 15 years. Total sample size is 10 247 households.

Results In single households, food insecurity and SNAP participation are associated with 20 % more time in meal preparation and 13 % less time eating. Similarly, in married households, SNAP participation and benefit level are associated with 32 % less time in meal preparation while food insecurity is associated with 17 % less time eating and 14 % less time in grocery shopping.

Conclusions A significant relationship exists between time spent on food-related activities and food insecurity and SNAP. This implies that federal and state government may need to consider the time constraints many low-income households face when reforming food assistance programmes.

(Received April 09 2012)

(Revised November 14 2012)

(Accepted December 06 2012)

(Online publication January 23 2013)


  • Time use;
  • Food insecurity;
  • Food stamps


c1 Corresponding author: Email