Publications

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  • Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits

    ERR-132, April 09, 2012

    ERS calculated the anti-poverty effects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - formerly called Food Stamps) using three measures: prevalence, depth, and severity of poverty. Get Report Summary and blog posting

  • 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.

  • Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2010

    AP-057, September 07, 2011

    This Supplement provides statistics that complement those in the Economic Research Report Household Food Security in the United States in 2010 (ERR-125). The Research Report provides the primary national statistics on household food security, food spending, and use of Federal food and nutrition assistance programs by food-insecure households. This Supplement provides additional statistics on component items of the household food security measure, the frequency-of-occurrence of food-insecure conditions, and selected statistics on household food security, food spending, and use of Federal and community food and nutrition assistance programs.

  • Household Food Security in the United States in 2010

    ERR-125, September 07, 2011

    An estimated 85.5 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2010, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.5 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.4 percent with very low food security-meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. The prevalence rate of very low food security declined from 5.7 percent in 2009, while the change in food insecurity overall (from 14.7 percent in 2009) was not statistically significant. The typical food-secure household spent 27 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition. Fifty-nine percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2010 survey.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2009

    ERR-108, November 10, 2010

    The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2009 was 14.7 percent. Though that level is essentially unchanged from 2008, the levels in both years are the highest recorded since monitoring began in 1995

  • Income Volatility Is Rising, With Mixed Effects on Nutrition Assistance Participation

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    Income volatility among U.S. households is higher today than 40 years ago, especially among households with the lowest incomes. Income volatility has mixed effects on participation in nutrition assistance programs, with some households not applying when eligible and others leaving while still eligible.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2008

    ERR-83, November 16, 2009

    Eighty-five percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2008, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.6 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security-meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were up from 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, in 2007, and were the highest recorded since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted. The typical food-secure household spent 31 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition. Fifty-five percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2008 survey.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2007

    ERR-66, November 17, 2007

    Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2007, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (11.1 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year. About one-third of food insecure households (4.1 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security-meaning that the food intake of one or more adults was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were essentially unchanged from those in 2005 and 2006.

  • 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.

  • Nutrition and Health Characteristics of Low-Income Populations: Volume II, WIC Participants and Nonparticipants

    EFAN-04014-2, December 30, 2004

    Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III), conducted in 1988-94, were used to compare the nutrition and health characteristics of participants and nonparticipants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This research was designed to establish a baseline from which to monitor the nutritional and health characteristics of WIC participants and nonparticipants over time. Because of age-based variations in the survey protocols and small samples of pregnant and postpartum women, data were not consistently available among women, infants, and children. Data availability was the richest for children and most limited for pregnant women.

  • Nutrition and Health Characteristics of Low-Income Populations: Volume III, School-Age Children

    EFAN-04014-3, December 01, 2004

    Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III), conducted in 1988-94, were used to compare the nutrition and health characteristics of the Nation's school-age children-boys and girls ages 5-18. Three groups of children were compared based on household income: income at or below 130 percent of poverty (lowest income), income between 131 and 185 percent of poverty (low income), and income above 185 percent of poverty (higher income). This research was designed to establish a baseline from which to monitor the nutrition and health characteristics of school-age children over time, particularly those in low-and lowest income groups.

  • Nutrition and Health Characteristics of Low-Income Populations: Volume IV, Older Adults

    EFAN-04014-4, December 01, 2004

    Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III), conducted in 1988-94, were used to compare the nutrition and health characteristics of the Nation's older adults-men and women ages 60 years and older. Three groups of older adults were compared based on household income: income at or below 130 percent of poverty (lowest income), income between 131 and 185 percent of poverty (low income), and income above 185 percent of poverty (higher income). This research was designed to establish a baseline from which to monitor the nutrition and health characteristics of older Americans over time, particularly those in low- and lowest income groups.

  • Nutrition and Health Characteristics of Low-Income Populations: Volume I, Food Stamp Program Participants and Nonparticipants

    EFAN-04014-1, December 01, 2004

    Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III), conducted in 1988-94, were used to compare the nutrition and health characteristics of participants and nonparticipants in the Food Stamp Program (FSP). FSP participants were compared with two groups of nonparticipants-those who were income-eligible for the FSP (income at or below 130 percent of poverty) and those with higher incomes (income above 130 percent of poverty). This research was designed to establish a baseline from which to monitor the nutritional and health characteristics of FSP participants and nonparticipants over time.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2003

    FANRR-42, October 26, 2004

    Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2003, meaning that they had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households were food insecure at least some time during that year. The prevalence of food insecurity, 11.2 percent of households, was not statistically different from the 11.1 percent observed in 2002. The prevalence of food insecurity with hunger was unchanged at 3.5 percent. This report, based on data from the December 2003 food security survey, provides the most recent statistics on the food security of U.S. households, as well as on how much they spent for food and the extent to which food-insecure households participated in Federal and community food assistance programs.

  • Food Stamp Participation Up in 2003

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2004

    Participation in USDA's Food Stamp Program averaged 21.3 million people per month in FY 2003--an 11-percent increase over the previous year. The weak job market, along with increased efforts by States to improve program access, accounts for most of the rise in program enrollment.

  • The Relationship of Earnings and Income to Food Stamp Participation: A Longitudinal Analysis

    EFAN-03011, November 21, 2003

    Monthly income and earnings of households that are eligible to participate in the Food Stamp Program (FSP), but that do not participate, vary substantially more than income and earnings of participant households. In particular, many nonparticipant households have had a short-term drop in income. Other nonparticipants, however, have had long-term low income and are often very disadvantaged. Although nonparticipation by such households might partly reflect underreporting of participation or income, many households may not participate because the same conditions that limit their incomes, such as low literacy levels or physical or mental disability, also limit their ability to participate in the FSP. Many poor nonparticipants are receiving other benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid, suggesting an avenue by which agencies can reach eligible nonparticipants. This study considers the role that the dynamics of household income plays in determining FSP participation. The two main objectives of the analysis are to (1) determine the extent to which nonparticipation can reasonably be attributed to temporary low income, and (2) assess why some households that appear to have long-term low income do not participate.

  • The Dynamics of Food Insufficiency

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2003

    The United States has an affordable and abundant food supply. Still, a small percentage of the American population experiences food insufficiency (sometimes or often not having enough to eat). Efforts to target assistance programs to meet the needs of this group can be improved through a better understanding of how people move into and out of food insufficiency, who is most vulnerable, and how long people are food insufficient.

  • Food Assistance Research Brief--The USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program Evaluation

    FANRR-34-14, August 21, 2003

    Getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables can be a significant challenge. A recent ERS study found one program was very successful in achieving the difficult objective. Many elementary and secondary students who ate free snacks of fresh and dried fruits and fresh vegetables as part of USDA's Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program (FVPP) said they improved their eating habits and were more willing to try unfamiliar fruits and formerly disliked vegetables as a result of participating in the pilot. Funded for the 2002-03 school year at $6 million by the 2002 Farm Bill, the pilot program also was considered a success by school staff members who ran it. The pilot operated in 107 U.S. elementary and secondary schools-100 schools in 4 States (25 schools each in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio) and 7 schools in the Zuni Indian Tribal Organization (ITO) in New Mexico. The program's intent was to promote fresh fruit and vegetable consumption among schoolchildren as concern spreads among health experts about the increasing number of overweight and obese children. A large majority of participating schools that responded to a survey about the pilot program believe that it would be feasible to continue the pilot if funding were made available and that the funding of about $94 per student was adequate. The research brief is based on a Report to Congress, Evaluation of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program: Report to Congress. The current Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). For information about child nutrition program participation, contact the State agencies that administer the program.

  • Food Assistance Research Brief-Childhood Obesity and the Role of USDA

    FANRR-34-11, July 15, 2003

    The rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is one of the most serious public health concerns in the United States today. Although most of USDA's child nutrition programs were established in response to documented problems of underconsumption and undernutrition among the low-income population, they now have the potential to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. This brief examines the how USDA food assistance and nutrition programs can be used to help further that goal.

  • Food Assistance Research Brief-Competitive Foods: Soft Drinks vs. Milk

    FANRR-34-7, July 15, 2003

    "Competitive foods"-those available in schools in addition to USDA-provided school meals-have lower nutritional quality than school meals. This report reviews current information on the impact of competitive foods in school meal programs and presents a case study on competition between milk and soft drinks.