Publications

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  • 2008 Farm Act Makes It Easier for Food Assistance Households To Save

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    The 2008 Farm Act includes new provisions that make it easier for SNAP households to save, especially for education or retirement. Asset limits that determine eligibility for SNAP benefits will be adjusted annually for inflation beginning in 2012. Assets held in tax-qualified retirement and education accounts will not count against eligibility. An additional 354,000 households are expected to become eligible for SNAP as a result of the exclusion of retirement accounts.

  • A Comparison of Food Assistance Programs in Mexico and the United States

    FANRR-6, August 04, 2000

    The social safety nets in Mexico and the United States rely heavily on food assistance programs to ensure food security and access to safe and nutritious foods. To achieve these general goals, both countries' programs are exclusively paid for out of internal funds and both target low-income households and/or individuals. Despite those similarities, economic, cultural, and demographic differences between the countries lead to differences in their abilities to ensure food security and access to safe and nutritious foods. Mexico uses geographic and household targeting to distribute benefits while the United States uses only household targeting. U.S. food assistance programs tend to be countercyclical (as the economy expands, food assistance expenditures decline and vice-versa). Mexican food assistance programs appear to be neither counter- nor procyclical. Food assistance programs have little effect on the extent of poverty in Mexico, while the opposite is true in the United States, primarily because the level of benefits as a percentage of income is much lower in Mexico and a much higher percentage of eligible households receive benefits from food assistance programs in the United States.

  • Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Updated Estimates of Distance to Supermarkets Using 2010 Data

    ERR-143, November 28, 2012

    ERS updates data on spatial access to affordable, healthy food, measuring distance to the nearest supermarkets for the U.S. population and considering factors like vehicle ownership and income level of households and areas.

  • Aiming for Targets, Saving on Arrows: Recent Insights from Two USDA Food Assistance Programs

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2003

    In USDA's food assistance programs, taxpayer dollars are the inputs. The outputs are the programs' goals: to provide needy persons with access to a more nutritious diet, to improve the eating habits of the Nation's children, and to help America' farmers by providing an outlet for the distribution of food purchased under farmer assistance authorities. Both farmers and USDA strive to operate efficiently.

  • Analysis of Those Leaving USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reveals the Program’s Effectiveness

    Amber Waves, February 21, 2013

    A recent ERS analysis compares the food security status of current SNAP recipients with that of households that had recently left the program. The difference of 8.9 percentage points in prevalence of very low food security between households that continued to receive SNAP benefits (14.2 percent) and households that had recently left the program (23.1 percent) provides an estimate of SNAP’s effectiveness in improving the food security of participating households.

  • Annual and Monthly SNAP Participation Rates

    ERR-192, August 25, 2015

    FNS estimates monthly SNAP participation rates; ERS has provided a complementary measure, estimating the proportion of the eligible population who participate at some time during the year. Each measure can be useful in assessing SNAP.

  • Background Report on the Use and Impact of Food Assistance Programs on Indian Reservations

    CCR-4, January 11, 2005

    The report reviews existing data sources and prior research on six programs operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provide food assistance to American Indians living on or near reservations. The purpose of the review is to help identify future research needs and opportunities to exploit administrative data systems and recurring national surveys.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective-Making Healthy Food Choices Easier: Ideas From Behavioral Economics

    EIB-29-7, September 27, 2007

    With obesity the most prevalent nutrition problem facing Americans at all economic levels, promoting diets that provide adequate nutrition without too many calories has become an important objective for the Food Stamp Program. Findings from behavioral economics suggest innovative, low-cost ways to improve the diet quality of food stamp participants without restricting their freedom of choice. Unlike more traditional economic interventions, such as changing prices or banning specific foods, the strategies explored in this brief can be targeted to those participants who want help making more healthful food choices.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective—Nutrition Information: Can It Improve the Diets of Low-Income Households?

    EIB-29-6, September 03, 2007

    The Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE) component of the Food Stamp Program is intended to improve the food choices, diet quality, and health of program participants. This brief discusses the FSNE program, how it operates, and how it has grown over time. The brief also considers the challenges of nutrition education in general and discusses the research and evaluation needs suggested by the findings.

  • Changes in Nutritional Quality of Food Product Offerings and Purchases: A Case Study in the Mid-1990's

    TB-1880, December 22, 1999

    This report provides a new economic approach and methodology for analyzing nutritional quality change in manufacturers' food product offerings and food products purchased using a case study of five food product categories in the mid-1990's. Two approaches were used to analyze nutritional quality change in product offerings. The first approach uses a composite nutritional index to measure changes. A second approach, nutrient-by-nutrient analysis, was also used to measure quality change. Overall, the nutrition index analysis showed no significant change in the average nutritional quality of products offered for sale in the five categories.

  • Characteristics of Low-Income Households With Very Low Food Security: An Analysis of the USDA GPRA Food Security Indicator

    EIB-25, May 31, 2007

    ERS provides information on the composition, location, employment, education, and other characteristics of households that experienced very low food security.

  • Children's Consumption of WIC-Approved Foods

    FANRR-44, February 14, 2005

    This study compared consumption patterns of WIC children with those of three different comparison groups: eligible nonparticipating children living in non-WIC households, eligible nonparticipating children living in WIC households, and children living in households whose income is too high to be eligible for WIC. The study provides strong evidence that participation in the WIC program increases consumption of at least some types of WIC-approved foods.

  • Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs

    EIB-174, June 20, 2017

    USDA child nutrition programs reduce food insecurity in households with children and contribute to diet quality and academic performance. One in 6 households with children was food insecure in 2015.

  • Commemorating 20 Years of U.S. Food Security Measurement

    Amber Waves, October 05, 2015

    USDA’s release of the 2014 food security statistics marks the 20th year of consistent, scientifically-based, objective data on food adequacy in U.S. households. The 20-year anniversary provides an opportunity to review the history of the food security measure—how the measure was developed, tested, and evaluated—and to reflect on its impact.

  • 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

  • Comparing National Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) Data With Other National Food Surveys’ Data

    EIB-157, July 27, 2016

    Data from USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), the first nationally representative household survey to collect data on foods purchased or acquired during a survey week, are compared with data from other national-level, food-related surveys.

  • Competitive Grant To Establish a USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research

    AP-063, May 01, 2014

    ERS in partnership with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service is inviting proposals to establish the USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research. The USDA Center will apply behavioral economics to food choice behaviors, including consumer, food industry, and retailer behaviors, that are relevant to USDA policies, with special attention to the SNAP and WIC programs. Errata: On June 4, 2014, Table 1, "Specific Instructions for Application for Federal Domestic Assistance-Short Organizational (SF-424)," Item 6b-c was changed from "leave blank" to "enter the requested information."

  • Cost Containment in the WIC Program: Vendor Peer Groups and Reimbursement Rates

    ERR-171, August 19, 2014

    ERS examines two possible strategies for containing WIC program costs-inducing small vendors to lower prices, and eliminating the vendors in each vendor peer group (organized by size and geographic location) who have the highest prices.

  • Could Behavioral Economics Help Improve Diet Quality for Nutrition Assistance Program Participants?

    ERR-43, June 01, 2007

    The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers.

  • Daily Access to Local Foods for School Meals: Key Drivers

    EIB-168, March 23, 2017

    School districts with enrollment above 5,000, in urban areas, and in counties with more farmers’ markets were more likely to serve local foods daily, as were districts with higher per capita income and State farm-to-school policies.