Food Consumption, Nutrition, and Food Insecurity
(Poverty and Income Policy)
Friday, November 13, 2015: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Orchid B (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Yunhee Chang, University of Mississippi
Panel Chairs: Tracy Vericker, Westat
Discussants: Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois and Alisha Coleman-Jensen, U.S. Department of Agriculture
This panel evaluates issues surrounding consumption of food and nutrition in the US and discusses how current policy addresses them. Despite federal initiatives on nutrition and food assistance, food insecurity affects nearly 15% of the U.S. households, and nutrition-related health problems continue to create financial burden to the society. From diverse but intersecting disciplinary perspectives and approaches, the panel discusses the cohesive theme of nutrition, food consumption, and food insecurity as an economic problem of individuals, families, and the society.
The paper titled “Food Insecurity among Recently Divorced Couples: The Role of Pre-Divorce Characteristics and Post-Divorce Child Placement” analyzes a longitudinal sample of recently divorced couples from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, and finds food insecurity after divorce is determined by pre-divorce human capital and assets and post-divorce child placement. This explains why divorced mothers are much more likely than divorced fathers to be food insecure. It also suggests the importance of asset building opportunities for families and need for special attention to those with disabilities.
The idea that households’ saving and borrowing practices may influence household food insecurity is taken further in the paper titled “Access to Short-Term Credit and Consumption Smoothing within Paycycle.” Using a unique administrative dataset of sales at grocery and department stores on military bases and difference-in-differences models in a natural experiment enabled by military personnel assignment, this paper examines the effect of access to payday loans on timing, level, and composition of consumption. This study finds payday loan access enables consumers to better smooth their consumption between paychecks while causing temptation purchases among some populations.
For many federal food assistance program participants, maintaining food security and quality diet can be challenging especially when local food price is high. Using the USDA’s new Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, the paper titled “The Effect of Food Price on Food Insecurity and Diet Quality: Exploring Potential Moderating Roles of Consumer Competency” examines whether consumer knowledge and competency help program participants in high price areas to eat healthy and remain food secure. Findings provide information for the debate surrounding nutrition education versus incentives or choice-based interventions.
Evaluating cost effectiveness of policies and programs is often difficult due to data limitation. Using methodically collected plate waste data before and after the new nutrition standards mandate of the National School Lunch Program, the paper titled “Food Pairings, Plate Waste, and Wasted Dollars: The Case of Elementary School Lunches” provides measures of plate waste, determines factors that affect plate waste, and assesses the financial costs from the waste. Not only does this study reveal the effect of the mandate on children’s actual consumption of foods served, it also informs whether the new nutrition standards result in increased waste of federal dollars.
These four studies provide insights as to how current nutrition and food assistance policies and programs can be fine-tuned to meet their goals with greater efficiency; and also how financial policies and regulations can have unintended consequences in nutrition and food consumption.