Publications

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  • 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.

  • Economic Linkages Between the WIC Program and the Farm Sector

    EB-12, March 01, 2009

    In fiscal 2008, the $4.6 billion of food purchased with vouchers from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) generated $1.3 billion in farm revenue. Because WIC participants would have purchased some of these foods with their own money in the absence of the program, the net addition to farm revenue from WIC is estimated at $331 million and the net increase in full-time-equivalent farm jobs at 2,640. The study uses an Input-Output Multiplier Model to derive these estimates and assumes that recent revisions in the WIC food packages were implemented in all States in fiscal 2008.

  • On The Map

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    In the 2006-07 school year, over 30 million school children, 57 percent of the U.S. population age 5-17, participated in USDA’s National School Lunch Program. Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota had the highest participation rates—above 75 percent.

  • The Roles of Economists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture

    AP-031, January 02, 2009

    Among the many responsibilities of USDA are implementing the Food Stamp Program and other food and nutrition assistance programs; managing Federal forest land; implementing standards of humane care and treatment of animals; providing incentives for adopting wildlife habitat enhancements and other conservation practices; participating in trade negotiations; ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs; providing funds for rural business development; and implementing farm programs legislated by Congress. The Department has a broad mandate, and virtually everything with which it is charged has economic dimensions. It is not surprising, then, that USDA employs over 800 economists across 16 of its agencies.

  • A Comparison of Household Food Security in Canada and the United States

    ERR-67, December 29, 2008

    Using nationally representative surveys from the United States and Canada, ERS compares rates of food insecurity in economic and demographic subgroups of the two countries.

  • 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.

  • Stabilizing Federal Support for Emergency Food Providers

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA supplies a variety of commodities and funds to States, who in turn provide them to food banks and other emergency food providers. USDA commodities account for nearly 14 percent of food distributed by emergency food providers. The 2008 Farm Act provides an immediate funding boost of $50 million and inflation-adjusted increases in funding through 2012.

  • 2008 Farm Act Makes It Easier for Food Assistance Households To Save

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    The 2008 Farm Act includes new provisions that make it easier for SNAP households to save, especially for education or retirement. Asset limits that determine eligibility for SNAP benefits will be adjusted annually for inflation beginning in 2012. Assets held in tax-qualified retirement and education accounts will not count against eligibility. An additional 354,000 households are expected to become eligible for SNAP as a result of the exclusion of retirement accounts.

  • Balancing Nutrition, Participation, and Cost in the National School Lunch Program

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    Recent reports of high rates of obesity and overweight among children have focused attention on the nutritional quality of school lunches. But this attention has raised another fundamental question: can schools meet the program’s nutrition goals while covering costs, especially in times of rising food prices? The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides federally-subsidized meals to more than 30 million children each school day. School foodservice managers say that to appeal to students and raise revenues, they need to offer less nutritious a la carte foods and vending snacks.