Publications

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  • Design Issues in USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Looking Ahead by Looking Back

    ERR-243, January 25, 2018

    Six major issues currently facing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are explored in the context of changes that have shaped the program's history

  • Comparing Alternative Mechanisms To Increase Fruit and Vegetable Purchases

    EIB-170, April 05, 2017

    ERS compares three possible enhancements to SNAP benefits to encourage fruit and vegetable purchases by participants

  • Trends in Infant Formula Rebate Contracts: Implications for the WIC Program

    EIB-119, December 02, 2013

    Most WIC State agencies are currently paying lower net prices for infant formula (adjusting for inflation) than under the previous contracts they negotiated with manufacturers - allaying earlier concerns about rising prices.

  • What’s Behind the Rise in SNAP Participation?

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2012

    Declining and persistently weak economic conditions have played a major role in the SNAP's growth over the past decade, as have policy changes to SNAP that improved accessibility, expanded eligibility, and raised benefit levels.

  • The Infant Formula Market: Consequences of a Change in the WIC Contract Brand

    ERR-124, August 18, 2011

    The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is the major purchaser of infant formula in the United States. To reduce cost to the WIC program, each State awards a sole-source contract to a formula manufacturer to provide its product to WIC participants in the State. As part of the contract, the WIC State agency receives rebates from the manufacturers. In this study, we use 2004-09 Nielsen scanner-based retail sales data from over 7,000 stores in 30 States to examine the effect of winning a WIC sole-source contract on infant formula manufacturers' market share in supermarkets. We find that the manufacturer holding the WIC contract brand accounted for the vast majority-84 percent-of all formula sold by the top three manufacturers. The impact of a switch in the manufacturer that holds the WIC contract was considerable. The market share of the manufacturer of the new WIC contract brand increased by an average 74 percentage points after winning the contract. Most of this increase was a direct effect of WIC recipients switching to the new WIC contract brand. However, manufacturers also realized a spillover effect from winning the WIC contract whereby sales of formula purchased outside of the program also increased.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, Fiscal 2011, Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-055, February 04, 2011

    The Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP) of the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) invites applications to conduct research that focuses on USDA's domestic food assistance and nutrition programs. The three priority research areas are (1) Food Assistance and the Macroeconomy, (2) Food Assistance and Food Choices, and (3) Using Behavioral Economics and Incentives To Promote Child Nutrition. ERS will accept proposals under this program for funding levels, inclusive of indirect cost when applicable, between $100,000 and $300,000 (for the duration of the grant and/or the cooperative agreement, not to exceed 3 years). ERS anticipates total funding available for this research is approximately $1.5 million. The deadline for proposal submission is April 4, 2011.

  • Rising Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program: Recent Trends in Rebates and Wholesale Prices

    ERR-93, February 18, 2010

    WIC provides participating infants with free infant formula. This study estimated that between 57 and 68 percent of all infant formula sold in the United States was purchased through WIC, based on 2004-06 data, and that formula costs to the WIC program have increased. Typically, WIC State agencies receive substantial rebates from manufacturers for each can of formula provided through the program. Each WIC State agency, or group of agencies, awards a contract to the manufacturer offering the lowest net wholesale price, defined as the difference between the manufacturer's wholesale price and the State agency's rebate. After adjusting for inflation, net wholesale prices increased by an average 73 percent for 26 fluid ounces of reconstituted formula between States' contracts in effect in December 2008 and the States' previous contracts. As a result of the increase in real net wholesale prices, WIC paid about $127 million more for infant formula over the course of a year.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, Fiscal 2010, Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-044, February 12, 2010

    he Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP) of the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) announces the availability of funds and a request for applications to conduct research that focuses on USDA's domestic food assistance and nutrition programs. The three priority research areas are (1) Food Assistance and Children's Well-Being, (2) Interactions Between the Built Environment and Food Assistance Programs, and (3) Using Behavioral Economics and Incentives To Promote Child Nutrition. ERS will accept proposals under this program for funding levels, inclusive of indirect cost when applicable, between $100,000 and $400,000 (for the duration of the grant and/or the cooperative agreement, not to exceed 3 years). Total funding available for this research is approximately $2.2-$2.7 million. The deadline for proposal submission is April 12, 2010.

  • Request for Applications for Competitive Grant Awards to Conduct Economic Research on the Joint Contributions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Unemployment Insurance to the Nation's Social Safety Net

    AP-043, December 18, 2009

    The Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP) of the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) announces the availability of funds and a request for applications to conduct research on operational issues of USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program, or FSP) and its support for the working poor. In particular, ERS seeks research that addresses: (a) operational issues regarding SNAP participation decisions and the dynamics of program participation among low-income households with workers, and (b) the interactions between receipt of SNAP benefits and State Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, especially during the current recession. ERS believes the issues can best be addressed by careful analysis of linked program administrative data from the SNAP and UI programs. Total funding available for this research is approximately $500,000. The deadline for proposal submission is February 17, 2010.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, Fiscal 2008, Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-027, March 17, 2008

    ERS's Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program is now accepting proposals for grants and cooperative agreements for fiscal 2008. The three priority research areas are (1) Food Choices: Economic Determinants and Consequences, (2) Economic Incentives in Food Assistance Programs, and (3) Food Assistance as an Economic Safety Net. This publication describes the research areas and application requirements. Funding for competitive awards in fiscal 2008 is approximately $2 million. The deadline for proposal submission is May 19, 2008.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More To Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective

    EIB-29, September 27, 2007

    Eight economic information bulletins compile evidence to address the question of whether the Food Stamp Program could do more to encourage healthful food choices.

  • Improving Food Choices—Can Food Stamps Do More?

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    The Food Stamp Program has changed over time from primarily focusing on getting a sufficient quantity of food to an increased emphasis on also choosing healthful foods with high nutritional quality. Proposed strategies for improving diets of Food Stamp Program participants include restricting the types of foods purchasable with food stamp benefits and offering bonuses or vouchers for buying healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.

  • Food Assistance: How Strong Is the Safety Net?

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    Food-assistance programs provide a safety net to help U.S. households purchase sufficient food. These programs, particularly the Food Stamp Program, increase food spending and household income. In 2004, adding food stamp benefits to recipients' incomes raised 9 percent of recipients out of poverty. Food assistance programs, particularly the school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs, have also been promoted as offering access to essential nutrients and minerals, however, the nutritional effects of these programs are uncertain.

  • Improving Food Choices—Can Food Stamps Do More?

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2007

    The Food Stamp Program has changed over time from primarily focusing on getting a sufficient quantity of food to an increased emphasis on also choosing healthful foods with high nutritional quality. Proposed strategies for improving diets of Food Stamp Program participants include restricting the types of foods purchasable with food stamp benefits and offering bonuses or vouchers for buying healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.

  • Food Assistance: How Strong Is the Safety Net?

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2006

    Food-assistance programs provide a safety net to help U.S. households purchase sufficient food. These programs, particularly the Food Stamp Program, increase food spending and household income. In 2004, adding food stamp benefits to recipients' incomes raised 9 percent of recipients out of poverty. Food assistance programs, particularly the school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs, have also been promoted as offering access to essential nutrients and minerals, however, the nutritional effects of these programs are uncertain.

  • WIC and the Retail Price of Infant Formula

    FANRR-39-1, June 01, 2004

    Rebates from infant formula manufacturers to State agencies that administer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) support over one-quarter of all WIC participants. However, concerns have been raised that WIC and its infant formula rebate program may significantly affect the infant formula prices faced by non-WIC consumers. This report presents findings from the most comprehensive national study of infant formula prices at the retail level. For a given set of wholesale prices, WIC and its infant formula rebate program resulted in modest increases in the supermarket price of infant formula, especially in States with a high percentage of WIC formula-fed infants. However, lower priced infant formulas are available to non-WIC consumers in most areas of the country, and the number of these lower priced alternatives is increasing over time.

  • Infant Formula Prices and Availability: Final Report to Congress

    EFAN-02001, October 01, 2001

    This final report responds to Congress's request for a study on the number of suppliers of infant formula in each State or major marketing area and comparison of the costs of formula that is included in USDA's WIC program versus that of other formula.

  • Infant Formula Prices and Availability: An Interim Report to Congress

    EFAN-01006, April 26, 2001

    This interim report responds to Congress's request for a study on the number of suppliers of infant formula in each State or major marketing area and comparison of the costs of formula that is included in the USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) versus that of other formula. Infant formula from the three major manufacturers, which accounts for 99 percent of all sales, was available in supermarkets in each of 64 market areas examined. Additionally, products in powder form from a fourth manufacturer were available in supermarkets in 83 percent of the market areas. Preliminary results indicate that within the market areas, there is not a clear relationship between a formula's being the WIC contract brand and its having the highest average retail price.

  • Food Cost Indexes for Low-Income Households and the General Population

    TB-1872, February 01, 1999

    The results of this study indicate that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has not systematically overestimated or underestimated the food costs incurred by the general population. True-cost-of-food indexes calculated for the general population tend to be the same as or slightly lower then the CPI except for 1994 and 1995. The true-cost indexes also indicate that there are economies to household size, that black households incur lower costs than nonblack households, and that the households in the West tend to have the highest costs. True-cost indexes for low-income households tend to be about the same as the CPI for one-person households, and lower than the CPI for two- and four-person households in all years. This is a significant finding in that components of the CPI for food at home are indirectly used to adjust benefit levels for food stamp recipients.

  • USDA's Healthy Eating Index and Nutrition Information

    TB-1866, May 12, 1998

    A comprehensive model is developed to measure the extent that nutrition knowledge and diet-health awareness, among other factors, influence an individual's Healthy Eating Index (HEI), USDA's measure of overall diet quality. This is the first study that rigorously attempts to examine variation in the index across population groups by controlling for personal and household characteristics and nutrition information levels, as well as test for endogeneity of nutrition information. Results indicate that one's level of nutrition information has an important influence on one's HEI and that nutrition information and the HEI are simultaneously determined. Other factors explaining variations in HEI's across individuals are income and education levels, race, ethnicity, and age. Evidence supports the hypothesis that higher education promotes more healthful food choices through better acquisition and use of health information.