Panel: Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Household Food Insecurity
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 6, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Acoma (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Daniel Miller, Boston University
Panel Chairs:  Fei Men, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Discussants:  Michele Ver Ploeg, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Federal food and nutrition assistance programs are an integral part of the US safety net. In 2013, nearly a quarter of Americans received some benefit from one of the fifteen domestic food and nutrition assistance programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. However, despite the extensive reach of these programs, one in seven American households is food insecure, meaning that household members experience "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food or limited or uncertain ability to acquire foods in socially acceptable ways" (Coleman-Jensen, et al., 2013, p.1598). Rates of food insecurity are even higher in households with children (20%) and among low-income households (39% in households with incomes less than 185% of the federal poverty line). In light of these elevated rates, research on the impact of food and nutrition assistance programs can play a vital role in helping to inform current and future policy efforts that aim to eliminate food insecurity. This proposed panel contains three papers, each of which was funded by the IRP RIDGE Center at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and each makes important contributions to our knowledge of food and nutrition assistance programs and their impacts on household food insecurity. The first of these papers (Huang and Barnidge) uses seasonal variation in participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to assess its causal impact on food insufficiency and food insecurity. In analyses of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the authors find that differences in insufficiency and insecurity between program recipients and non-recipients are moderated by additional summer months, concluding that participation results in a 14% reduction in the probability of food insufficiency and a 20% reduction in the probability of food insecurity among recipients of free/reduced price lunch. The second paper (Swann) also uses the SIPP to tackle the important and previously under-researched topic of multiple program participation. Using panel data methods, it investigates food insecurity related to participation in WIC, SNAP, and the NSLP as well as recent program participation and transitions. Results from this paper underscore the importance of examining multiple programs to fully understand dynamic impacts on household food insecurity. The final paper (Miller) uses administrative and survey data from California to develop estimates of the effects of participation in the Summer Food Service Program. In a spatial analysis, the paper examines whether access to program sites (measured as driving time between respondent homes and nearby program sites) is associated with food insecurity. Results indicate that measures of access to the SFSP are associated with lower household food security after controlling for household- and area-level characteristics. The panel papers adopt diverse disciplinary perspectives and methods to assess the impact of food assistance and nutrition programs on food insecurity. Collectively, they make important contributions to our understanding of these programs, which is essential to effective policymaking. Our discussant Shelly Ver Ploeg of ERS at the USDA will offer important perspectives on how results from the papers can inform current policy and future research.
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