Publications

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  • What If: Cash Instead of Food Stamps?

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Proposals to decentralize the Food Stamp Program and allow States flexibility to design and administer their own food assistance programs periodically arise. Under one approach, recipients would receive cash in lieu of food stamp vouchers, giving them greater choice in what they consume.

  • Food Stamps and Child Poverty

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    In 2000, 8.8 million children received food stamps, making the Food Stamp Program a significant component in the well-being of children in many low-income households. This "food stamp effect" reduced the number of children in poverty in 2000 by 4 percent.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-How Do Food Assistance Programs Improve the Well-Being of Low-Income Families?

    FANRR26-9, October 01, 2002

    The costs of USDA's three largest food assistance programs-food stamps, school means and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)-are easier to measure than the benefits of those programs. In 2000, the three programs' direct costs were $28 billion. As shown in this issues brief, the well-being of low-income families who participate in food assistance programs is enhanced by the alleviation of the severity of poverty, an increase in food security, satisfactory nutrient intake, and increases in household food expenditures.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-Assessing the Self-Sufficiency of Food Stamp Leavers

    FANRR26-8, October 01, 2002

    The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 dramatically altered the welfare system. Among the changes: work-related requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) and tighter limitations on their participation in the Food Stamp Program. The Economic Research Service, USDA, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, HHS, jointly funded and commissioned four State studies to determine the well-being of ABAWDs who had left food stamps in the post-reform era. Results of those studies are discussed in this issues brief.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-How Unemployment Affects the Food Stamp Program

    FANRR-26-7, October 01, 2002

    This issues brief examines the link between unemployment and food stamps, with an emphasis on the potential magnitude of economic and policy changes on food stamp caseloads. We find that a 1-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate leads to about 700,000 more food stamp recipients in the first year and in the longer run, this increase leads to 1.3 million more food stamp recipients.

  • Food Assistance Landscape, September 2002

    FANRR-28-1, September 02, 2002

    Nearly 1 in 6 Americans is served by 1 or more of the 15 domestic food assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at some point during the year. These programs provide needy persons with access to a more nutritious diet, provide opportunities to improve the eating habits of the Nation's children, and help America's farmers by creating an outlet for the distribution of food purchased under farmer assistance authorities. The Food Assistance Landscape, September 2002 provides a concise summary of USDA's food assistance programs at the midpoint of fiscal 2002, including trends and economic conditions affecting the programs.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-Effects of Changes in Food Stamp Expenditures Across the U.S. Economy

    FANRR-26-6, August 01, 2002

    The Food Stamp Program (FSP) provides assistance to more households during recessions and to fewer households during times of economic expansion. These changes in FSP expenditures can have stabilizing effects on the economy, stimulating economic activity during recessions and slowing demand during expansions. This issues brief shows that the FSP provides an economic stimulus during recessions only if the Government funds the increase in program expenditures through emergency financing, rather than through increased taxes or other budget-neutral means.

  • Re-Engineering the Welfare System-A Study of Administrative Changes to the Food Stamp Program: State Data Collection Instrument

    EFAN-01009, July 01, 2002

    All States in a recent study undertook at least one "re-engineering" activity in their Food Stamp Programs (FSPs) as a result of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). In addition, 35 States implemented changes in 3 or more re-engineering categories, while 24 States planned changes for fiscal year (FY) 2000 in 2 or more categories.

  • Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit

    EFAN-02013, July 01, 2002

    This report provides a toolkit of standardized measurement tools for assessing various aspects of community food security. It includes a general guide to community assessment and focused materials for examining six basic assessment components related to community food security. These include guides for profiling general community characteristics and community food resources as well as materials for assessing household food security, food resource accessibility, food availability and affordability, and community food production resources. Data collection tools include secondary data sources, focus group guides, and a food store survey instrument. The toolkit was developed through a collaborative process that was initiated at the community Food Security Assessment Conference sponsored by ERS in June 1999. It is designed for use by community-based nonprofit organizations and business groups, local government officials, private citizens, and community planners.

  • Iowa Food Stamp Leavers Survey: Final Report

    EFAN-02014-1, July 01, 2002

    Enrollment in Iowa's Food Stamp Program (FSP) sharply decreased in the last years of the 1990s, following significant changes in social assistance programs in the State, passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and a period of good economic conditions. Data collected in a 1999 survey provide information about the well-being of families that had participated in Iowa's FSP in 1997, the time immediately following introduction of the new regulations. Nearly 58 percent of those participating in the FSP in 1997 were not participating in the program when interviewed in 1999. Those who left the FSP in 1997 (including working age adults without dependents or a disability) had better economic and employment outcomes than others. Adults without dependents or a disability who remained in the FSP in 1997 had the greatest hardships: They were most likely to have very low income, had less contribution from earned income, and were more likely to experience food insecurity and hunger in the last year. Over half of all of the households in the survey had used private food assistance in the past year.

    For a description of the methodology for the study, see Iowa Food Stamp Leavers Survey: Methodology Report, E-FAN 02014-2.

  • Iowa Food Stamp Leavers Survey: Methodology Report

    EFAN-02014-2, July 01, 2002

    The Iowa Food Stamp Leavers survey was conducted to evaluate the status of people who had left the Iowa Food Stamp Program in 1997. This report describes the sample design, location strategies, data collection methodologies, and weighting procedures used in conducting the survey and preparing the data for analysis.

    For the results of the study, see Iowa Food Stamp Leavers Survey: Final Report, E-FAN 02014-1.

  • Re-Engineering the Welfare System-A Study of Administrative Changes to the Food Stamp Program: Final Report

    FANRR-17, July 01, 2002

    All States in a recent study undertook at least one "re-engineering" activity in their Food Stamp Programs (FSPs) as a result of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1966 (PRWORA). In addition, 35 States implemented changes in 3 or more re-engineering categories, while 24 States planned changes for fiscal year (FY) 2000 in 2 or more categories. PRWORA dramatically changed the systems that provide cash assistance and food stamps to low-income Americans. Along with mandatory changes in food stamp eligibility, States were given greater flexibility to administer their programs to meet their unique needs. While States had begun changing the way program services were delivered before passage of welfare reform legislation, PRWORA provided additional opportunities for them to "re-engineer" FSPs. The purpose of the study was to examine State-level administrative changes to FSPs as a result of PRWORA, both those made before FY 2000 and those planned for FY 2000. This report provides the study results.

    For the State data collection instrument, see Re-engineering the Welfare System-A Study of Administrative Changes to the Food Stamp Program: State Data Collection Instrument, E-FAN 01009.

  • Effects of EBT Customer Service Waivers on Food Stamp Recipients: Final Report

    EFAN-02007, June 27, 2002

    Most State agencies are now using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems to issue food stamp benefits. To promote operational efficiency, some States have received waivers of certain rules governing EBT use. An exploratory study was conducted to ascertain the effects of these waivers on food stamp recipients. The results show that two of the waivers-those allowing recipients to select their own personal identification numbers and to receive EBT training by mail rather than in person-cause new food stamp recipients in waiver States to have more difficulties in using the electronic system than new recipients in nonwaiver States. Further, the difficulties are more apparent among the elderly or disabled. However, the problems tend to disappear as new users gain EBT experience. A third waiver, extending time for card replacement via mail, showed mixed benefits for recipients, most of whom prefer to pick up the card at a food stamp office. Perhaps the most important conclusion is that the customer service waivers do not affect recipient satisfaction with the EBT system; the high level of satisfaction that they expressed suggests that most problems with the waivers are either transitory or minor.

  • Seniors' Views of the Food Stamp Program and Ways To Improve Participation-Focus Group Findings in Washington State: Final Report

    EFAN-02012, June 12, 2002

    This report explores factors that influence Food Stamp Program (FSP) participation among the elderly and identifies ways to improve their participation based on findings from focus groups of senior FSP participants and nonparticipants, community-based organizations, and staff from local food stamp offices. While many seniors felt the FSP provided a valuable benefit, many felt that the benefit levels were too low to make the effort of applying worthwhile. Two important barriers that seniors felt they faced when applying for food stamps were the stigma attached to receiving what they see as welfare and misinformation about food stamp rules. Many seniors also felt the application, eligibility, and certification processes were overly complicated and intrusive. Discussants suggested several options for improving access to the FSP that included simplifying the application process, extending the recertification process, and changing the delivery of food stamp benefits to make them more user-friendly.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-The Standard Deduction in the Food Stamp Benefit Formula

    FANRR-26-3, June 03, 2002

    This issue brief explains the role of the standard deduction in the food stamp benefit formula and analyzes options for changing the level of the standard deduction.

  • Tracing the Impacts of Food Assistance Programs on Agriculture and Consumers: A Computable General Equilibrium Model

    FANRR-18, May 20, 2002

    Changes in food assistance policy can have impacts on economic activity and household income across the economy. Using a Computable General Equilibrium model focusing on food assistance, we found that both a hypothetical cut in food stamp benefits and a hypothetical cash-out of the Food Stamp Program led to reductions in food demand and farm production. In addition, this hypothetical cut in food stamp benefits resulted in a decline in transfer income for low-income households that was not compensated for by increased labor income. The cash-out triggered general equilibrium effects that led to higher taxes and reductions in labor income, chiefly for high-income households. The Food Assistance Computable General Equilibrium model includes modeling innovations that make it particularly useful for investigating the potential economic impact of changes in food assistance policy. These innovations include allowing household consumption patterns to vary by income and food stamp benefits, letting labor supply and demand vary by skill level and occupation, and using considerable industry detail for key agricultural and food processing sectors.

  • Measuring the Well-Being of the Poor: Demographics of Low-Income Households

    TB-1898, April 19, 2002

    The economic well-being of the U.S. population with incomes below 130 percent of the official poverty guideline is of special interest to policymakers and food assistance program administrators. For example, the Food Stamp Program uses gross income below this level as one of several criteria for determining eligibility for program benefits. This study employs alternative welfare measures, including the Sen index, to assess the economic status of the food stamp-eligible population and to track changes in welfare status over time. In general, welfare measures of households with income no greater than 130 percent of the poverty line improved slightly between 1981 and 1995. The study also assesses which demographic characteristics that describe low-income households have the largest impact on the welfare measures. This demographic analysis is useful for identifying household types that could merit special attention in designing strategies such as job training or food stamp education and outreach.

  • Effects of EBT Customer Service Waivers on Food Stamp Recipients: Executive Summary

    FANRR-23, April 15, 2002

    Most State agencies are now using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems to issue food stamp benefits. To promote operational efficiency, some States have received waivers of certain rules governing EBT use. An exploratory study was conducted to ascertain the effects of these waivers on food stamp recipients. The results show that two of the waivers-those allowing recipients to select their own personal identification numbers and to receive EBT training by mail rather than in person-cause new food stamp recipients in waiver States to have more difficulties in using the electronic system than new recipients in nonwaiver States. Further, the difficulties are more apparent among the elderly or disabled. However, the problems tend to disappear as new users gain EBT experience. A third waiver, extending time for card replacement via mail, showed mixed benefits for recipients, most of whom prefer to pick up the card at a food stamp office. Perhaps the most important conclusion is that the customer service waivers do not affect recipient satisfaction with the EBT system; the high level of satisfaction that they expressed suggests that most problems with the waivers are either transitory or minor.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, Fiscal 2002, Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-010, March 08, 2002

    ERS's Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program accepted proposals for grants and cooperative agreements for fiscal 2002. The five priority research areas were (1) Program Design and Operations, (2) Food Assistance as a Safety Net, (3) Obesity, (4) Eating Patterns, Diet Quality, and Health Outcomes, and (5) Behavioral Nutrition. This publication describes the research areas and application requirements. Funding for competitive awards in fiscal 2002 was approximately $2 million. The deadline for proposal submission was May 17, 2002.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2000

    FANRR-21, March 01, 2002

    The latest in a series of annual statistical reports on the prevalence of food security, food insecurity, and hunger in U.S. households, based on the September 2000 Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement. This year's report, in addition to statistics on food security, includes information on how much U.S. households spent on food and the extent to which food-insecure households participated in Federal and community food assistance programs.