Publications

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  • Sharing the Economic Burden: Who Pays for WIC's Infant Formula

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2004

    Each month, USDA’s WIC program provides infant formula at no cost to almost 2 million nutritionally at-risk infants in low-income households. But while WIC’s infant formula is free to WIC participants, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Infant formula is no exception to this elementary lesson of economics.

  • Evaluating the Impact of School Nutrition Programs: Final Report

    EFAN-04008, July 13, 2004

    This study develops estimates of the efficacy of school nutrition programs in improving a broad range of dietary outcomes by comparing the nutritional status of students and their families during the school year with the status when school is out. The study finds evidence that children who have a School Breakfast Program (SBP) available consume a better overall diet, consume a lower percentage of calories from fat, are less likely to have a low intake of magnesium, and are less likely to have low serum levels of vitamin C and folate. For every outcome examined, SBP availability either promotes better outcomes or at the least does not promote worse outcomes. The results of this study suggest that the availability of an SBP has beneficial effects for children. This report describes the study's broad evaluation of the SBP and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The study used the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey III (NHANES III)-a nationally representative data set that contains detailed information on food consumption, a complete clinical exam, and a laboratory report for respondents.

  • Innovative WIC Practices: Profiles of 20 Programs

    EFAN-04007, June 11, 2004

    WIC provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and social service referrals to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children younger than age 5. WIC has come under increased scrutiny as it has expanded rapidly, and some have suggested new directions for the program. This study examines a range of innovative practices at 20 State or local WIC agencies. The study focuses on practices in three main areas: breastfeeding promotion and support (including peer counseling and programs for high-risk groups), nutrition and health education (including obesity prevention, preventive health care, and staff training), and service delivery (such as home and workplace visits). For each innovative program, the report provides background information and discusses the source of the innovation, key challenges, implementation lessons learned, evidence of its success, and the feasibility of replicating the practice.

  • Linking WIC Program Data to Medicaid and Vital Records Data: Phase II Report, Data Development Initiatives for Research on Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs-Final Report

    EFAN-04005-2, June 02, 2004

    This report is a followup to a proposal to create a national database that links State data from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) with Medicaid and vital records data. The linked information would create new opportunities for Federal and State program administrators, as well as independent researchers, to examine a number of factors related to program participation and dynamics. The report provides an implementation plan for creating a national database, including potential costs, benefits, and alternatives. The initiative is one of three that have the potential to improve the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of research on Federal food assistance and nutrition programs. The other initiatives are addressed in the reports, Linking the Current Population Survey and State Food Stamp Program Administrative Data (E-FAN-04-005-1) and Establishing a Web-Based Data Collection System for National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Program Data (E-FAN-04-005-3).

  • Linking the Current Population Survey to State Food Stamp Program Administrative Data: Phase II Report, Data Development Initiatives for Research on Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs-Final Report

    EFAN-04005-1, June 01, 2004

    This report is a followup to a proposal to link the Current Population Survey (CPS) to State Food Stamp Program (FSP) administrative data. A linked CPS-FSP file would create new opportunities to explore dynamic program participation patterns of FSP participants and eligible nonparticipants. The report provides an implementation plan for a linked CPS-FSP file, including potential costs, benefits, and alternatives. The initiative is one of three that have the potential to improve the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of research on Federal food assistance and nutrition programs. The other initiatives are addressed in the reports, Linking WIC Program Data to Medicaid and Vital Records Data (E-FAN-04-005-2) and Establishing a Web-Based Data Collection System for National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Program Data (E-FAN-04-005-3).

  • Establishing a Web-Based Data Collection System for National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Program Data: Technical Report

    EFAN-04005-3, June 01, 2004

    This report is a followup to an initiative to establish a central website to collect data from States on the National School Lunch and the School Breakfast Programs. A central website could be used by researchers and program administrators to compare and analyze data across State and local areas for participation trends in local school district programs. The report provides an implementation plan for establishing a central website, including potential costs, benefits, and alternatives. The initiative is one of three that have the potential to improve the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of research on Federal food assistance and nutrition programs. The other initiatives are addressed in the reports Linking the Current Population Survey and State Food Stamp Program Administrative Data (E-FAN-04-005-1) and Linking WIC Program Data to Medicaid and Vital Records Data (E-FAN-04-005-2).

  • WIC and the Retail Price of Infant Formula

    FANRR-39-1, June 01, 2004

    Rebates from infant formula manufacturers to State agencies that administer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) support over one-quarter of all WIC participants. However, concerns have been raised that WIC and its infant formula rebate program may significantly affect the infant formula prices faced by non-WIC consumers. This report presents findings from the most comprehensive national study of infant formula prices at the retail level. For a given set of wholesale prices, WIC and its infant formula rebate program resulted in modest increases in the supermarket price of infant formula, especially in States with a high percentage of WIC formula-fed infants. However, lower priced infant formulas are available to non-WIC consumers in most areas of the country, and the number of these lower priced alternatives is increasing over time.

  • Food Stamp Program Access Study: Eligible Nonparticipants

    EFAN-03013-2, May 12, 2004

    Many food stamp-eligible nonparticipants are aware of the Food Stamp Program (FSP) and how to apply but do not realize that they are eligible. Nearly all eligible nonparticipating households surveyed in 2000 and 2001 knew of the FSP, but less than half thought they were eligible. Most nonparticipant households said that they would apply for food stamp benefits if they were sure they were eligible. Nonetheless, 27 percent would never apply. The main reason for not applying was a desire for personal independence. Some eligible nonparticipants were interested enough in receiving benefits to contact the food stamp office but did not get enough information or support to become participants. This report was produced as part of the Food Stamp Program Access Study, which is examining local food stamp office policies and practices as possible barriers to participation. The report focuses on one group of eligible households, those who are not participating in the FSP. As a group, these households generally have higher incomes and earnings and are more food secure than participants.

  • Moving Public Assistance Recipients Into the Labor Force, 1996-2000

    FANRR-40, May 11, 2004

    Moving recipients of public assistance into jobs is a goal of the current system for providing public assistance to low-income households. Using scenario analysis with a computable general equilibrium model, ERS researchers examined some of the labor market impacts of the "welfare-to-work" provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). The results show that, from 1996 to 2000, the influx of public assistance recipients into the labor force put downward wage pressure on low-skill occupations, making wage growth smaller than it would have been without the influx. At the same time, the influx added workers to the labor force, which contributed to economic growth. By expanding the labor force, the influx contributed 1 percentage point of real economic growth in terms of gross domestic product from 1996 through 2000.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, Fiscal 2004, Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-014, March 19, 2004

    ERS's Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program accepted proposals for grants and cooperative agreements for fiscal 2004. The three priority research areas were (1) Strengthening Economic Incentives in Food Assistance Programs, (2) Food Assistance as a Safety Net, and (3) Obesity, Diet Quality, and Health Outcomes. This publication describes the research areas and application requirements. Funding for competitive awards in fiscal 2004 was approximately $1.0-1.5 million. The deadline for proposal submission was May 24, 2004.

  • Persistence and Change in the Food Security of Families With Children, 1997-99

    EFAN-04001, March 18, 2004

    This report uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the prevalence of and changes in food security between 1997 and 1999 among individual families with children younger than 13. About half of the families that were food insecure in 1997 became food secure by 1999, with the rest remaining food insecure. Meanwhile, about 7 percent of the families who were food secure in 1997 became food insecure in 1999. Although the food security status for individual families changed substantially, the prevalence of food insecurity was relatively stable: In both years, about 1 family in 10 was food insecure. The report also examines families' characteristics, income, and Food Stamp Program participation.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape, March 2004

    FANRR-28-4, February 25, 2004

    USDA's domestic food assistance programs affect the daily lives of millions of people. About 1 in 5 Americans is estimated to participate in at least 1 of 15 food assistance programs at some point during the year. Expenditures for USDA's 15 food assistance programs increased 9.4 percent in fiscal year 2003 to $41.6 billion. This exceeded the previous historical record of $38.1 billion that was spent on food assistance in fiscal 1996. 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 94 percent of USDA's total expenditures for food assistance, with the expansion of the Food Stamp Program being the cause of most of the total increase in food assistance expenditures between fiscal years 2002 and 2003.

  • Food Stamp Program Access Study: Local Office Policies and Practices

    EFAN-03013-1, December 09, 2003

    A survey of State food stamp offices shows that many policies and practices recommended by USDA in 1999 to improve accessibility to the Food Stamp Program (FSP) were widely operational by the year 2000. For example, in the surveyed areas, food stamp outreach campaigns were fairly widespread, food stamp applications were accessible, and some accommodations for the elderly and disabled were common. Other recommended practices, however, were less common, notably practices to encourage participation by working families and former recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The survey also found barriers to participation prevalent for some segments of the food stamp population and opportunities for conducting food stamp business after regular office hours limited. The dramatic decline in FSP participation in the late 1990s led policymakers and analysts to focus on local food stamp office policies and practices as possible barriers to participation. The Food Stamp Program Access Study is examining the relationship between these practices and the decision by eligible households to participate in the FSP. This report presents a detailed analysis of FSP operations that may affect accessibility.

  • Employment Factors Influencing Food Stamp Program Participation: Final Report

    EFAN-03012, November 25, 2003

    This study examines how employment characteristics of low-income households influence Food Stamp Program (FSP) participation. The relationship between employment and FSP participation is of special interest because, although more low-income working families are eligible to participate, many do not. Low-income working households are less likely to participate in the FSP if they work traditional daytime hours, hold multiple jobs, and work more hours, but they are more likely to participate if they frequently change jobs. However, the relationship between employment and FSP participation was stronger in the early 1990s than in the late 1990s, suggesting that barriers to participation among working families decreased during the decade.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program: Executive Summaries of 2002 Research Grants

    FANRR-38, November 19, 2003

    This report summarizes research findings from the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program. The Economic Research Service created the program in 1998 to stimulate new and innovative research on food assistance and nutrition issues and to broaden the participation of social science scholars in these issues. The report includes summaries of the research projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2001. The results of these research projects were presented at the October 2002 Small Grants Program conference. The projects focus on food insecurity and hunger, nutritional status and diet quality, Federal food assistance program participation, and the role of private-sector organizations in the provision of food assistance. Some projects focus on specific populations, such as people living in the rural South and those living on American Indian reservations.

  • Using One-Stops To Promote Access to Work Supports-Lessons from Virginia's Coordinated Economic Relief Centers: Final Report

    EFAN-03010, November 18, 2003

    Policymakers and program administrators have become increasingly concerned about declines in participation in the Food Stamp Program (FSP) and other work supports. As a result, interest has grown in identifying promising strategies for improving low-income families' access to these programs and benefits. In early 2002, the Commonwealth of Virginia implemented a new initiative: To provide the services of many agencies at one-stop career centers, called Coordinated Economic Relief Centers (CERCs). This report describes the results of a study on how the CERCs were implemented and their potential for increasing low-income families' access to the FSP and other work supports and provides operational lessons for other States and communities seeking to implement a similar one-stop approach to service delivery. The results indicate that the CERCs helped some customers get information about where to find services and made obtaining services more convenient. However, resource constraints hampered the CERCs' efforts to operate as envisioned, the level of referrals to food assistance programs was low, and expectations in some communities exceeded what the CERCs could realistically accomplish.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program: Executive Summaries of 2001 Research Grants

    FANRR-37, November 10, 2003

    This report summarizes research findings from the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program. The Economic Research Service created the program in 1998 to stimulate new and innovative research on food assistance and nutrition issues and to broaden the participation of social science scholars in these issues. The report includes summaries of the research projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2000. The results of these research projects were presented at the 2001 Small Grants Program conference. The projects focus on food insecurity and hunger, nutritional outcomes, and the causes and consequences of food assistance program participation. Some projects focus on specific populations, such as people living in the rural South and on American Indian reservations.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2002

    FANRR-35, October 30, 2003

    Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year 2002, 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 rose from 10.7 percent in 2001 to 11.1 percent in 2002, and the prevalence of food insecurity with hunger rose from 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent. This report, based on data from the December 2002 food security survey, provides 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.

  • Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program-Impacts on Program Access and Integrity

    EFAN-03009, October 07, 2003

    About 61 percent of school districts used direct certification in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in the 2001-02 school year, the same share as in 1996. Direct certification increased the number of children certified for free meals by about 400,000 and slightly increased overall NSLP participation. Under direct certification, school districts use information from State welfare or food stamp offices to certify children to receive free meals. To qualify, the children's families must receive food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or assistance from the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Children's families who are directly certified do not have to complete certification applications. Direct certification was designed primarily to improve NSLP access and administrative efficiency. The Executive Summary provides highlights and the full report provides details of a study on the prevalence of direct certification, its implementation methods, and its effects on NSLP access and integrity.

  • Food Assistance Landscape, September 2003

    FANRR-28-3, September 30, 2003

    Domestic food assistance programs account for over half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) outlays. Each year, about 1 in 5 Americans is served by 1 or more of the 15 food assistance programs aimed at improving the nutrition, well-being, and food security of needy Americans. The Economic Research Service (ERS) is responsible for conducting studies and evaluations of USDA's food assistance programs, focusing on the benefits of improved diets and food choices, factors that influence diet and nutrition, and program outcomes. This report uses preliminary data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to examine trends in the food assistance programs at the midpoint of fiscal 2003. It also discusses two recent congressionally mandated studies conducted by ERS: an assessment of WIC cost-containment practices, and an evaluation of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program.