Publications

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  • Supermarket Characteristics and Operating Costs in Low-Income Areas

    AER-839, December 15, 2004

    Whether the poor pay more for food than other income groups is an important question in food price policy research. Stores serving low-income shoppers differ in important ways from stores that receive less of their revenues from Food Stamp redemptions. Stores with more revenues from Food Stamps are generally smaller and older, and offer relatively fewer convenience services for shoppers. They also offer a different mix of products, with a relatively high portion of sales coming from meat and private-label products. Metro stores with high Food Stamp redemption rates lag behind other stores in the adoption of progressive supply chain and human resource practices. Finally, stores with the highest Food Stamp redemption rates have lower sales margins relative to other stores, but have significantly lower payroll costs as a percentage of sales. Overall, operating costs for stores with high Food Stamp redemption rates are not significantly different from those for stores with moderate Food Stamp redemption rates. If the poor do pay more, factors other than operating costs are likely to be the reason.

  • Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program: Executive Summaries of 2003 Research Grants

    FANRR-43, December 13, 2004

    This report summarizes research findings for the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Small Grants Program. This report includes summaries of the research projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2002. The projects focus on food assistance and child well-being, food insecurity and hunger, the dynamics of food assistance program participation, obesity, and the role of community factors in dietary intake and food security. Some projects focus on specific populations, such as people living in the rural South and on American Indian reservations.

  • Estimating Longrun Food Stamp Program Caseloads

    EFAN-04013, December 03, 2004

    This study analyzes the relationship between Food Stamp Program (FSP) caseloads and the macroeconomy using annual State-level panel data for 1980-99. It is the first study to link the time-series properties of the data to an interpretation of public assistance program policy. A longrun relationship involving FSP caseload equation and the macroeconomy is estimated but requires that Aid to Families with Dependent Children/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (AFDC/TANF) caseloads be included as an explanatory variable. The resulting equation that connects trends in the economy with the trend in FSP caseloads indicates that the economic expansion in the 1990s permanently lowered future FSP caseloads below what they would be otherwise. The potential for the economy to change the trend in FSP caseloads is in contrast to its role presented in previous studies in which the economic expansion of the 1990s is seen as causing only a temporary decrease in FSP caseloads that dies out over time. Tests of the estimated equation also indicate that the common practice of including year effects (annual dummy variables) or State-specific time trend in the FSP caseload equation may overcontrol for omitted variables. Instead, trends in the regressors should be allowed to explain the trend in FSP caseloads.

  • 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 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.

  • Feasibility and Accuracy of Record Linkage To Estimate Multiple Program Participation: Volume III, Results of Record Linkage

    EFAN-03008-3, November 18, 2004

    This study investigated the feasibility of linking administrative data from multiple USDA food assistance and nutrition programs. This report contains findings from Phase II of the study, which collected and linked 2000-02 administrative data on clients of the Food Stamp Program (FSP) and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky. The report finds that the percentage of FSP infants (children) with contemporaneous participation in WIC ranged from 84 to 94 percent (50 to 57 percent). Meanwhile, the percentage of WIC infants (children) with contemporaneous participation in FSP ranged from 22 to 38 percent (29 to 50 percent). Most FSP women who gave birth during the 3-year period participated in WIC for some period (83 percent in Florida and 91 percent in Iowa). Phase II also examined the relative timing of participation across programs and the individual and household characteristics associated with multiple program participation.

  • Food Stamp Program Access Study: Final Report

    EFAN-03013-3, November 17, 2004

    The Food Stamp Program Access Study was motivated by a desire to learn whether and how the administrative policies and practices of local food stamp offices influence the chances of eligible households participating in the program. This report examines the participation decisions of potentially eligible households, together with the local office policies and practices that may enhance or inhibit program access. The findings indicate that many households with no recent contact with the FSP would apply for benefits if they believed themselves to be eligible. In addition, outreach activities are effective in communicating eligibility to nonparticipating households. The processes of application and recertification-and to a lesser extent, complying with ongoing program requirements-are hurdles that a sizable number of apparently eligible households fail to surmount. When surveyed, applicants and program dropouts cited various procedural obstacles as factors in their decision not to participate. The econometric analysis also identifies a number of office practices that vary across offices and appear to be significant in participation decisions.

  • Food Stamp Certification Periods and Payment Accuracy: State Experience During 1997-2001

    EFAN-04012, November 12, 2004

    Quality control (QC) reviews of Food Stamp Program (FSP) cases show that error rates across States range from less than 5 percent to more than 25 percent when both overpayment and underpayment error are combined. This study uses QC data for 1997-2001 and a Markov probability framework to characterize year-to-year national and State error rates into variations due to errors occurring with first-month cases (those approved at initial certification); ongoing cases (those subject to the interim action process); and expiring cases (those subject to the recertification process). This information can be used in planning corrective actions by focusing attention on phases of the administrative process that are more responsible for errors. This study also explores the effect on payment accuracy and FSP participation of more frequent recertification of food stamp cases. A motivating concern is that the use of short certification periods (3 months or less) as a strategy to reduce case error may unintentionally reduce program participation.

  • 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 Assistance Landscape, September 2004

    FANRR-28-5, October 19, 2004

    Expenditures for USDA's 15 food assistance programs totaled $23.3 billion during the first half of fiscal 2004 (October 1, 2003, to March 31, 2004), an 11-percent increase over the first half of fiscal 2003. If this trend continues during the second half of fiscal 2004, expenditures for the entire fiscal year will surpass the record $41.8 billion spent on food assistance in fiscal 2003 (prior to fiscal 2003, the previous historical record was $38.1 billion set 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 almost 95 percent of USDA's total expenditures for food assistance. While each of these major programs expanded during the first half of fiscal 2004, most of the increase in total food assistance expenditures was due to the expansion of the Food Stamp Program.

  • Understanding the Food Stamp Program Participation Decisions of TANF Leavers

    EFAN-04011, September 15, 2004

    This paper evaluates factors affecting the decision by families that leave the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to participate in the Food Stamp Program (FSP). Linked Illinois State-level administrative data are combined with Census data and data from the Illinois Families Study survey to evaluate the FSP take-up decision of TANF leavers 3 years after leaving the welfare rolls. Results indicate that in Chicago, neighborhood characteristics and knowledge of FSP eligibility at the district office level are important factors in understanding the FSP participation decision of TANF leavers even after individual or family-level demographic characteristics are taken into account. This evidence suggests that the density of social networks among the food-stamp-eligible population in the district office areas may mediate the effects of office outreach and communication strategies.

  • Prototype Notebook: Short Questions on Dietary Intake, Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors

    EFAN-04010, September 10, 2004

    This report provides a compendium of 128 survey questions used in previous research to assess dietary knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors for low-income populations over the age of 18. The short questions or sets of questions on nine topics, including fruits and vegetables; grains, legumes, and fiber; variety; fat; calcium food sources; nonalcoholic beverages; knowledge, attitudes; and behaviors, are drawn from an extensive inventory and evaluation of available questions reported in the research literature. Each question is presented using a common template including the citations, data sources, and characteristics such as question reliability, validity, sensitivity to change, availability in other languages, mode of administration, use in populations with low-income and/or low-education levels, relation to nutrition and health outcomes, and availability of comparative data. This report is part of a larger ERS research effort to develop a common core set of questions to assess the dietary behavior impact of Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE) on Food Stamp Program participants.

  • Do Local Food Stamp Offices Improve Access for the Working Poor?

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2004

    Nearly half of working households eligible to participate in USDA's Food Stamp Program did not participate in 2003. A nationally representative survey in June 2000 sponsored by ERS found that staff attitudes and many local office practices encourage participation by the working poor, though some practices may be a hindrance.

  • 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.

  • Food Stamp Program-Elderly Nutrition Demonstrations: Interim Report on Elderly Participation Patterns

    EFAN-04009, June 28, 2004

    To raise participation in the Food Stamp Program (FSP) by low-income, elderly individuals, USDA implemented the Elderly Nutrition Demonstration in six States (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and North Carolina) in 2002. Each of the demonstrations is organized around one of three strategies to increase participation: simplifying the eligibility requirements for elderly individuals that apply for food stamps, directly assisting them with completing the application process, or offering them the option of receiving packages of commodities each month instead of getting benefits through an electronic benefits transfer card. Preliminary analysis indicates that FSP participation by the elderly rose substantially after the demonstrations started. In Arizona, Florida, Maine, and North Carolina, participation grew significantly more in demonstration counties than in nondemonstration counties. In Connecticut and Michigan, the more modest growth rates in the demonstration counties were similar to the rates in the rest of the State. The analysis also provides some evidence that the demonstrations attract elderly individuals eligible for relatively low FSP benefits, particularly in Maine and North Carolina, where a large number of individuals eligible for a $10 benefit are applying.

  • 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).

  • 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).

  • 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.