Truman School Associate Professor Dr. Irma Arteaga was one of eight faculty researchers awarded a 2019 grant for up to $50,000 from the Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Program. With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the RIDGE Program at Tufts University and the University of Connecticut focuses on economic research aimed at enhancing food security and dietary quality for low-income Americans through the nation’s nutrition assistance programs.*
Irma Arteaga (PI) and Leslie Hodges (co-PI)’s research will examine the relationship among participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), maternal depression, and child health. Using siblings fixed effects, researchers hope to understand if SNAP helps parents provide an environment that nurtures and fosters child health by working as a protective factor for maternal depression. “About 14% of women experience postpartum depression symptoms in the state of Missouri; and this percentage is over 20% for those in Medicaid. It is surprising that this topic is still taboo because new mothers are supposed to be extremely happy for the arrival of a new baby.” says Arteaga. With a rich dataset gleaned from SNAP state data and Medicaid claims, researchers will be able to make comparisons between urban and rural low-income families, as well as between Caucasians and African Americans, something not yet examined in the literature. Consequently, this project has the potential to impact groups at higher risk for poor health by increasing the understanding of associations between SNAP benefits and postpartum depression, well-child visits, immunizations, and child’s weight.
Bringing together the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, two institutions with a long record of research leadership in this area, the Tufts/UConn RIDGE Program oversees external research grants on federal nutrition assistance programs and supports a community of researchers applying their expertise to nutrition assistance topics. The RIDGE program issued the request for proposals in early 2019. Applicants were invited to submit short concept letters in early spring, and selected applicants were invited to submit full proposals in late spring. All full proposals were reviewed by external reviewers, USDA reviewers, and by the program directors at the University of Connecticut and Tufts University. Using recommendations from the RIDGE Program, the award decision was made by USDA’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service.*
*Information on the RIDGE Program taken from press release issued June 3, 2019, retrieved from https://ridge.nutrition.tufts.edu/sites/default/files/grant-award-2019-release.pdf
 Dr. Irma Arteaga is an associate professor at the Truman School of Public Affairs.
 Dr. Leslie Hodges is a graduate from our TSPA PhD program and a post-doctoral research associate at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.