Publications

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  • 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

  • How Food Away From Home Affects Children's Diet Quality

    ERR-104, October 04, 2010

    Compared with meals and snacks prepared at home, food prepared away from home increases caloric intake of children, especially older children. Among older children, food away from home also lowers their daily diet quality.

  • The Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) Model and Stimulus Effects of SNAP

    ERR-103, October 01, 2010

    USDA's Economic Research Service uses the Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) model to represent and measure linkages between USDA's domestic food assistance programs, agriculture, and the U.S. economy. This report describes the data sources and the underlying assumptions and structure of the FANIOM model and illustrates its use to estimate the multiplier effects from benefits issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program). During an economic downturn, an increase in SNAP benefits provides a fiscal stimulus to the economy through a multiplier process. The report also examines the different types of multipliers for different economic variables that are estimated by input-output multiplier and macroeconomic models and considers alternative estimates of the jobs impact. FANIOM's GDP multiplier of 1.79 for SNAP benefits is comparable with multipliers from some macroeconomic models.

  • Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages To Curb Obesity

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    ERS researchers found that a 20-percent tax on caloric sweetened beverages could reduce consumption, calorie intake, and body weight even after accounting for increased consumption of alternative beverages.

  • 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.

  • Rising Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program: Recent Trends in Rebates and Wholesale Prices

    ERR-93, February 18, 2010

    WIC provides participating infants with free infant formula. This study estimated that between 57 and 68 percent of all infant formula sold in the United States was purchased through WIC, based on 2004-06 data, and that formula costs to the WIC program have increased. Typically, WIC State agencies receive substantial rebates from manufacturers for each can of formula provided through the program. Each WIC State agency, or group of agencies, awards a contract to the manufacturer offering the lowest net wholesale price, defined as the difference between the manufacturer's wholesale price and the State agency's rebate. After adjusting for inflation, net wholesale prices increased by an average 73 percent for 26 fluid ounces of reconstituted formula between States' contracts in effect in December 2008 and the States' previous contracts. As a result of the increase in real net wholesale prices, WIC paid about $127 million more for infant formula over the course of a year.

  • Meeting Total Fat Requirements for School Lunches: Influence of School Policies and Characteristics

    ERR-87, December 02, 2009

    Concerns about child obesity have raised questions about the quality of meals served in the National School Lunch Program. Local, State, and Federal policymakers responded to these concerns beginning in the mid-1990s by instituting a range of policies and standards to improve the quality of U.S. Department of Agriculture-subsidized meals. Schools have been successful in meeting USDA nutrient standards except those for total fat and saturated fat. This report uses school-level data from the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment-III to calculate statistical differences between the fat content of NSLP lunches served by schools with different policies (e.g., menu planning) and characteristics like region and size. Positive associations are found between a meal's fat content and the presence of a la carte foods and vending machines, which are thought to indirectly affect the nutrient content of USDA-subsidized meals.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2009 Edition

    ERR-73, April 16, 2009

    The mission of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children through age 4 who are at nutritional risk. WIC provides nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education, and referrals to health care and other social services. Administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), almost half of all infants and about a quarter of all children ages 1-4 in the United States participate in the program. WIC is USDA's third-largest food and nutrition assistance program, accounting for 10 percent of total Federal spending on food and nutrition assistance. This report describes the WIC program-how it works, its history, program trends, and the characteristics of the population it serves. It also examines current issues facing WIC, focusing mainly on those with important economic implications.

  • An Illustrated Guide to Research Findings from USDA's Economic Research Service

    EIB-48, April 01, 2009

    This book contains a sampling of recent ERS research illustrating the breadth of the Agency's research on current policy issues: from biofuels to food consumption to land conservation to patterns of trade for agricultural products.

  • WIC and the Battle Against Childhood Overweight

    EB-13, April 01, 2009

    One of the most worrisome aspects of the growing tide of obesity in the United States is the high rate of overweight among children. Over one in five young children, ages 2 to 5, are at risk of being overweight. The number of children at risk of being overweight has grown in the past two decades, as has the number of young children whose families participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Are these increases connected? The answer appears to be "No." However, being from a low-income family, especially a low-income, Mexican-American family, does raise the probability of a child's being at risk for overweight. This brief examines trends in the relationship between WIC participation and weight status by updating the results of Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002 (ERR-48) to include data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

  • 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.

  • In the Long Run

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Since 1969, the sixfold increase in the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches has been the driving force behind the growth in USDA’s National School Lunch Program. In the 1970s, laws relaxed eligibility criteria and prohibited overt identification of children receiving free and reduced-price meals, and the number of free and reduced-price participants grew by 154 percent. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Acts of 1980 and 1981 temporarily halted this upward trend by establishing stricter income guidelines and requiring income verification. Since 1990, the number of children receiving free and reduced-price lunches has grown from 11.5 to 17.9 million.