Publications

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  • Post Welfare Reform, the Poorest Children Receive Lower Benefits

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2010

    Welfare reform brought sweeping changes to Federal assistance programs. An ERS report indicates that the current “safety net” has gaps, particularly for children in the poorest households. On average, total household resources for children in the poorest households declined from 1990 to 2004.

  • Eating and Health Module User's Guide

    AP-047, April 05, 2010

    The Eating & Health (EH) Module of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) collects additional data to analyze relationships among time use patterns and eating patterns, nutrition, and obesity; food and nutrition assistance programs; and grocery shopping and meal preparation. This User's Guide provides detailed guidance to researchers on how to use the EH Module to measure time use and eating patterns.

  • SNAP Benefits and Eating Out: Wise Choices Required

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Most U.S. households make poorer nutritional choices than those recommended by dietary guidelines. Allowing for SNAP benefits to be spent on food away from home, which is generally nutritionally inferior to food at home, may help SNAP participants balance time constraints and other needs but could also make it harder for them to eat healthy.

  • Food Insecurity in Households With Children Increased in 2008

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    In 2008, 21 percent of U.S. households with children were food insecure, up from 16 percent in 2006 and 2007. The prevalence of food insecurity in households with children in 2008 was the highest recorded since the Federal Government began monitoring household food security in 1995.

  • Changing Participation in Food Assistance Programs Among Low-Income Children After Welfare Reform

    ERR-92, February 19, 2010

    In 1996, the safety net for poor households with children fundamentally changed when Federal legislation replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This study investigates participation in, and benefits received from, AFDC/TANF and food assistance programs, before and after the legislation, for children in low-income households (income below 300 percent of the Federal poverty line). The results show that, between 1990 and 2004, the share of children receiving food stamp benefits declined, most notably among children in the poorest households (income below 50 percent of the Federal poverty line). The share of children receiving benefits from the school meals programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) rose, mainly among children in low-income households with income above the Federal poverty line. Overall, the share of children in households that received benefits from AFDC/TANF or food assistance programs grew from 35 percent to 52 percent. However, the net result of these changes is that average total inflation-adjusted household benefits from all programs examined declined. The decline was largest among children in the poorest households.

  • Food Insecurity up in Recessionary Times

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    The recent economic downturn has brought a sharp increase in the number of Americans who report having difficulty meeting their food needs. In fact, in 2008, the number and percentage of U.S. households classified as "food insecure" reached the highest level recorded since Federal monitoring of food insecurity began in 1995.

  • 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.

  • Does SNAP Decrease Food Insecurity? Untangling the Self-Selection Effect

    ERR-85, October 29, 2009

    Self-selection by more food-needy households into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program) makes it difficult to observe positive effects of the program in survey data. This study investigates self-selection and ameliorative program effects by examining households' food security month by month for several months prior to initial receipt of SNAP benefits and for several months after joining the program. Two-year panels are constructed by matching the same households interviewed in the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement in 2 consecutive years using data from 2001 to 2006. Food security is observed to deteriorate in the 6 months prior to beginning to receive SNAP benefits and to improve shortly after. The results clearly demonstrate the self-selection by households into SNAP at a time when they are more severely food insecure. The results are consistent with a moderate ameliorative effect of SNAP-reducing the prevalence of very low food security among recent entrants by about one-third-although they do not conclusively demonstrate that extent of amelioration.

  • Food Spending Declined and Food Insecurity Increased for Middle-Income and Low-Income Households from 2000 to 2007

    EIB-61, October 23, 2009

    From 2000 to 2007, food spending by middle- and low-income households grew more slowly than food prices, and national prevalence of very low food insecurity (food intakes reduced) rose from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 4.1 in 2007.

  • RIDGE Project Summaries, 2008: Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program

    AP-040, September 30, 2009

    This report summarizes research findings from the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE), formerly known as the Small Grants Program. The Economic Research Service created the program in 1998 to stimulate new and innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues and to broaden the network of social scientists investigating the food and nutrition challenges that exist across communities, regions, and States. The report includes summaries of the research findings of projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2007. The results of these research projects were presented at the RIDGE conference in October 2008. The projects include analyses of WIC vendor access and fruit and vegetable availability, effects of food insecurity on the development of infants and toddlers, administrative data to evaluate CACFP in family child care homes, the economics of the Thrifty Food Plan, and food stamp use among the elderly. Several projects focus on specific populations such as immigrants, Native Americans, or people living in the rural South. Disclaimer: The studies summarized herein were conducted under research grants originating with the Economic Research Service. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ERS or USDA.

  • Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics

    EIB-56, September 21, 2009

    New report describes the prevalence and severity of food insecurity in households with children as of 2007, the trends since 1999, and characteristics of households affected by food insecurity.

  • Increased SNAP Benefits Provide Countercyclical Boosts

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    Higher unemployment and greater benefit payments per household are expected to increase SNAP benefits by 45 percent in FY 2009 relative to FY 2008. The estimated $15.4 billion of additional spending by SNAP participants in FY 2009 will provide a $28.3 billion infusion into the economy.

  • Some Households Leaving SNAP Still Face Food Shortfalls

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2009

    Food insecurity is generally more prevalent among low-income households that have recently left SNAP than among those still receiving benefits. In 2005-07, 35 percent of low-income households that had left SNAP during the year were food insecure, compared with 29 percent of households still receiving benefits. Similarly, very low food security was more prevalent among former recipients who had recently left the program (16 percent) than among current SNAP recipients (12 percent).

  • State Variations in the Food Stamp Benefit Reduction Rate for Earnings: Cross-Program Effects from TANF and SSI Cash Assistance

    EIB-46, March 24, 2009

    The Food Stamp Program reduces benefits to households as their earnings rise. This reduction is affected by household participation in other Government assistance programs (cross-program effects) and by the wide variation in State-specific reduction rates for earnings in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This study shows that, for food stamp recipients who also received cash benefits through TANF in 2005, an extra dollar of earnings led to a change in food stamp benefits ranging from a reduction of 36 cents to an increase of 9 cents. On average across all States, the overall reduction rate for food stamp benefits and TANF cash benefits was about 70 percent, or about double the benefit reduction rate for a household that received only food stamp benefits. Even with this high benefit reduction rate, households received larger net incomes by working and earning income. Cross-program effects and State-level variability in food stamp benefits are important considerations in integrating Government assistance programs into a support system for low-income households.

  • Higher Food Prices Can Take a Bite Out of SNAP Benefits

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Rising prices can erode the purchasing power of benefits provided through government assistance programs. To help protect program participants from the effects of higher prices, many government benefits, including those from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program), are adjusted annually for inflation.

  • Rising Food Prices Take a Bite Out of Food Stamp Benefits

    EIB-41, December 18, 2008

    The Food Stamp Program is designed to provide low-income families with increased food purchasing power to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet. As in most other Federal Government assistance programs, benefits are adjusted in response to rising prices-in this case, rising food prices. The current method of adjustment results in a shortfall between the maximum food stamp benefit and the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet as specified by USDA's Thrifty Food Plan. During fiscal year (FY) 2007, the shortfall in the caseload-weighted maximum benefit for the program grew from $7 in October 2006 to $19 in September 2007. In FY 2008, the amount grew from almost $8 in October 2007 to $34 in July 2008 and to $38 in September 2008. In an average month, food stamp households faced shortfalls of over $2 in FY 2003, $12 in FY 2007, and $22 in FY 2008. These losses in food purchasing power account for 1 percent, 4 percent, and 7 percent of the maximum benefit in each respective year. Alternative adjustment methods can reduce the shortfall but will raise program costs.

  • In the Long Run: How Much Does Participation in the Food Stamp Program Reflect Economic Trends?

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Participation in the Food Stamp Program (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2008 Farm Act) grew nationally by 24.5 percent between fiscal years 2003 and 2007.

  • On The Map

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Participation in the Food Stamp Program (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2008 Farm Act) grew nationally by 24.5 percent between fiscal years 2003 and 2007.

  • RIDGE Project Summaries, 2007: Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program

    AP-029, July 31, 2008

    This report summarizes research findings from the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE), formerly known as the Small Grants Program. The Economic Research Service created the program in 1998 to stimulate new and innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues and to broaden the network of social scientists that collaborate in investigating the food and nutrition challenges that exist across communities, regions, and States. The report includes summaries of the research findings of projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2006. The results of these research projects were presented at the RIDGE conference in October 2007. The projects include analyses of the influence of WIC on children's health at birth, impacts of Food Stamp Program participation on weight gained by expectant mothers, community influence on food assistance and dietary choices, and economic effects of a policy to provide government-subsidized price discounts for the purchase of fruits and vegetables by food stamp recipients. Several of the projects focus on specific populations such as immigrants, Native Americans, or people living in the rural South.

    Disclaimer: The studies summarized herein were conducted under research grants originating with the Economic Research Service. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ERS or USDA.

  • Food Stamps and Obesity: What We Know and What It Means

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2008

    Food stamp benefits do not increase obesity for most program participants, but there is a potential link for some subgroups.