Publications

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  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2006 Midyear Report

    EIB-6-3, September 15, 2006

    USDA expenditures for its 15 food assistance programs totaled $27.7 billion during the first half of fiscal 2006 (October 2005-March 2006), a 7-percent increase over the first half of fiscal 2005. Five programs-the Food Stamp Program; the National School Lunch Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the School Breakfast Program; and the Child and Adult Care Food Program-accounted for 96 percent of USDA's total expenditures for food assistance. This report uses preliminary data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service to examine trends in the programs at the midpoint of fiscal 2006. It also summarizes a number of ERS research reports on the Food Stamp Program released in recent years that may help inform discussions of the 2007 reauthorization of the farm bill.

  • Income Volatility Complicates Food Assistance

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2006

    Income fluctuations cause low-income families to cycle in and out of eligibility for food assistance programs. Twenty-eight percent of U.S. households with children experienced at least one monthly income change in the late 1990s that put them above or below the eligibility criteria for many programs.

  • Emergency Food Assistance Reaches Hurricane Victims

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2006

    Between September and December 2005, in response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, 1.6 million new U.S. households received food stamp benefits through USDA's Disaster Food Stamp Program. An additional 676,000 households had benefits replaced due to destroyed food. Benefits issued amounted to $900 million.

  • 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.

  • How Low-Income Households Allocate Their Food Budget Relative to the Cost of the Thrifty Food Plan

    ERR-20, August 25, 2006

    Low-income households that participate in the Food Stamp Program can achieve a healthy diet if they use the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) as a guide for their food shopping. Most studies measuring the degree to which low-income households follow the TFP have compared total household food expenditures-for food at home as well as food away from home-to the TFP. The present study looked at total expenditures, but the emphasis is on how low-income households allocate their budget relative to the TFP for food at home. To determine whether some types of households are more likely than others to budget their food purchases in accordance with TFP benchmarks, and to identify households that might benefit most from nutrition education programs, the study compared actual and TFP expenditures for four household categories.

  • Profiles of Participants in the National School Lunch Program: Data From Two National Surveys

    EIB-17, August 25, 2006

    The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves more than 29 million children each day, but there is little information on the characteristics of those children. This study reports new estimates of NSLP participant characteristics using two national surveys: the 2001 Panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Study results also show that these two surveys are suitable sources of data on NSLP participants since they are consistent with more aggregated administrative data of the Food and Nutrition Service. The surveys supplement periodic characteristics data available from the School Nutrition and Dietary Assessment (SNDA) surveys.

  • The Income Volatility See-Saw: Implications for School Lunch

    ERR-23, August 15, 2006

    Income volatility challenges the effectiveness of the safety net that USDA food assistance programs provide low-income families. This study examines income volatility among households with children and the implications of volatility for eligibility in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The results show that income volatility was higher for successively lower income groups and that the major determinants of changes in NSLP eligibility were changes in total household hours worked and the share of working adults. Income volatility in two-thirds of lower income households caused one or more changes in their monthly NSLP eligibility during the year. An estimated 27 percent of households that were income eligible for subsidized lunches at the beginning of the school year were no longer income eligible for the same level of subsidy by December due to monthly income changes.

  • Nutrient Adequacy of Children Participating in WIC

    EB-8, April 20, 2006

    USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods to participants, in most cases through vouchers for retail purchase of foods designated as approved by the program. WIC food packages were initially designed to include foods rich in nutrients that were lacking in the diets of low-income participants. This brief summarizes two recent ERS-sponsored studies that provide new assessments of nutrient intakes of WIC children, income-eligible children not participating in the program, and children ineligible for the program.

  • South Carolina Food Stamp and Well-Being Study: Transitions in Food Stamp and TANF Participation and Employment Among Families With Children

    CCR-17, April 03, 2006

    People who receive public assistance confront a number of “clocks” that may affect program participation. Examples of clocks include time limits on receiving benefits and recurring deadlines for reconfirming eligibility. This study examines the role of program clocks, economic conditions, and other circumstances on participation in South Carolina’s cash and food assistance programs.

  • Administrative Costs in the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Results of an Exploratory Study of the Reimbursement System for Sponsors of Family Child Care Homes

    CCR-16, March 21, 2006

    Providers of child day care services operating out of their homes may be reimbursed for meals and snacks served to participating children through USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). To participate, these homes must be sponsored by a public or private organization that recruits the homes, trains them to follow CACFP rules, monitors compliance with the rules, and handles meal reimbursement claims and payments. This study explores the administrative cost reimbursement system for CACFP sponsors.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, Fiscal 2006, Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-018, March 17, 2006

    ERS's Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program accepted proposals for grants and cooperative agreements for fiscal 2006. The three priority research areas were (1) Economic Incentives in Food Assistance Programs, (2) Food Assistance as a Safety Net, and (3) Food Choices, Obesity, and Human Capital. This publication describes the research areas and application requirements. Funding for competitive awards in fiscal 2006 was approximately $1.5 million. The deadline for proposal submission was May 22, 2006.

  • Food Assistance Landscape, March 2006

    EIB-6-2, February 15, 2006

    One in five Americans participates in at least one of USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs during the year. In fiscal 2005, an estimated 55 percent of USDA's budget supported the programs that provide children and low-income people with access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. The Economic Research Service (ERS) is responsible for conducting studies and evaluations of USDA's food assistance programs. The Food Assistance Landscape March 2006 uses preliminary data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to examine trends in the food assistance programs through fiscal 2005 (October 1, 2004 to September 30, 2005). It also discusses a recent ERS study that examined patterns of entry into and exit from the Food Stamp Program.

  • Food Stamps and Obesity: Ironic Twist or Complex Puzzle?

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    With its roots in the Great Depression and expansion during the 1970s after the Government’s declared war on poverty, the Food Stamp Program was designed to provide a nutritional safety net for low-income households while boosting demand for domestic agricultural products.

  • Food Stamp Program Costs and Error Rates, 1989-2001

    CCR-15, January 31, 2006

    Evidence is strong that, beginning in 1995, an increase in reported certification-related costs per Food Stamp Program (FSP) household contributed to reduced error rates. This report presents the results of a study of trends in FSP administrative costs and errors from 1989 to 2001. The results imply that, in the period after the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, States on average had to spend more effort on certification-related activities than in previous years to achieve a given level of accuracy.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program: Executive Summaries of 2004 Research Grants

    CCR-12, October 24, 2005

    This report summarizes research findings from the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program. The report includes summaries of the research projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2003. The projects focus on the economics of obesity, food insecurity and childhood obesity, food assistance program participation and household well-being, community influence on food assistance and dietary choices, and welfare reform and food assistance participation.

  • State-Level Predictors of Food Insecurity and Hunger Among Households With Children

    CCR-13, October 18, 2005

    This report examines interstate variation in household food security. Using hierarchical modeling, we identify several contextual dimensions that appear linked to household food security: the availability and accessibility of Federal nutrition assistance programs, policies affecting economic well-being of low-income families, and States’ economic and social characteristics. We find that a strong food security infrastructure particularly benefits families that are economically vulnerable yet have incomes above the poverty line.

  • Food Assistance Landscape, September 2005

    EIB-6-1, October 04, 2005

    USDA expenditures for its 15 food assistance programs totaled $25.9 billion during the first half of fiscal 2005 (October 2004-March 2005), an 11-percent increase over the first half of fiscal 2004. Five programs-the Food Stamp Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program-accounted for 95 percent of USDA's total expenditures for food assistance. Spending on each of these five programs grew during the first half of fiscal 2005 relative to the first half of fiscal year 2004, but most of the increase was due to the Food Stamp Program. This report uses preliminary data from the Food and Nutrition Service to examine trends in the programs at the midpoint of fiscal 2005. It also discusses a recent ERS report that presents findings from an evaluation of projects aimed at testing ways to increase Food Stamp Program participation among eligible elderly individuals.

  • Evaluation of the USDA Elderly Nutrition Demonstrations: Volume II, Demonstration Summaries

    CCR-9-2, August 01, 2005

    Historically, low-income seniors ages 60 and older who qualify for Food Stamp Program (FSP) benefits participate at low rates because they feel it is not worth the effort to apply. To identify effective strategies for raising participation among this population, USDA designed three models, each using different techniques to reduce the barriers that seniors face in FSP participation.

  • Evaluation of the USDA Elderly Nutrition Demonstrations: Volume I, Evaluation Findings

    CCR-9-1, August 01, 2005

    Reducing the burden of applying for food stamps or enhancing benefits appears to increase participation of the elderly in the Food Stamp Program (FSP). Historically, low-income seniors ages 60 and older who qualify for FSP benefits participate at low rates because they feel it is not worth the effort to apply.

  • Food Stamp Program Entry and Exit: An Analysis of Participation Trends in the 1990s

    CCR-8, July 28, 2005

    This study examines the degree to which changes in entry and exit patterns into and out of the Food Stamp Program (FSP) contributed to the FSP caseload growth of the early 1990s and to the decline of the late 1990s. A rise in the FSP entry rate was the driving force behind caseload growth in the early 1990s. However, individuals tended to stay longer in the FSP during this period than at other points of the 1990s, which also contributed to the growth.