Cash and In-Kind Transfers in Poor Rural Communities in Mexico Increase Household Fruit, Vegetable, and Micronutrient Consumption but Also Lead to Excess Energy Consumption
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Conditional transfer programs are increasingly popular, but the impact on household nutrient consumption has not been studied. We evaluated the impact of the Programa deApoyo Alimentario (PAL), a cash and in-kind transfer program, on the energy and nutrient consumption of poor rural households in Mexico. The program has been shown to reduce poverty. Beneficiary households received either a food basket (including micronutrient-fortified milk) or cash. A random sample of 206 rural communities in Southern Mexico was randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: a monthly food basket with or without health and nutrition education, a cash transfer with a cost to the government equivalent to the food basket (14 USD/mo) with education, or control. The impact after 14 mo of exposure was estimated in a panel of 5823 households using a double difference regression model with household fixed effects. PAL was associated with increases (P < 0.01) in the consumption of total energy (5-9%), energy from fruits and vegetables (24-28%), and energy from animal source foods (24-39%). It also affected iron, zinc, and vitamin A and C consumption (P < 0.05). The consumption of energy and all nutrients was greater in the food basket group (P < 0.05). Cash and in-kind transfers in populations that are not energy-deficient should be carefully redesigned to ensure that pulling poor families out of poverty leads to improved micronutrient intake but not to increased energy consumption. J. Nutr. 140: 612-617, 2010.
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