Food Assistance & Nutrition Research Program No. (FANRR-6) 35 pp

August 2000

A Comparison of Food Assistance Programs in Mexico and the United States

The social safety nets in Mexico and the United States rely heavily on food assistance programs to ensure food security and access to safe and nutritious foods. To achieve these general goals, both countries' programs are exclusively paid for out of internal funds and both target low-income households and/or individuals. Despite those similarities, economic, cultural, and demographic differences between the countries lead to differences in their abilities to ensure food security and access to safe and nutritious foods. Mexico uses geographic and household targeting to distribute benefits while the United States uses only household targeting. U.S. food assistance programs tend to be countercyclical (as the economy expands, food assistance expenditures decline and vice-versa). Mexican food assistance programs appear to be neither counter- nor procyclical. Food assistance programs have little effect on the extent of poverty in Mexico, while the opposite is true in the United States, primarily because the level of benefits as a percentage of income is much lower in Mexico and a much higher percentage of eligible households receive benefits from food assistance programs in the United States.

Keywords: Food assistance programs, social safety net, targeting methods, macroeconomy, poverty, Progresa, DICONSA, FIDELIST, LICONSA, DIF, Food Stamp Program, WIC, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs

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