Panel: SNAP and the Food Assistance and Retail Environment: Effects on Participation, Healthy Eating, and Food Prices
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Burnham (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Agustina Laurito, University of Illinois, Chicago
Panel Chairs:  Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Northwestern University
Discussants:  Michele Ver Ploeg, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Philip Gleason, Mathematica Policy Research

Does School Lunch Fill the “SNAP Gap” at the End of the Month?
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Syracuse University and Agustina Laurito, University of Illinois, Chicago

USDA Food Assistance Programs (SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, and the School Breakfast Program) and Healthy Food Choices: Quasi Experimental Evidence from Geographic Variation in Food Prices
Erin T. Bronchetti, Swarthmore College, Garret Christensen, Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences and Benjamin Hansen, University of Oregon

Is There an Nth of the Month Effect? the Timing of SNAP Issuance, Food Expenditures and Grocery Prices
Jacob Goldin, Stanford University, Tatiana Homonoff, New York University and Katherine Meckel, Texas A&M University

Does Food Assistance Affect the Retail Food Landscape?
Tim Beatty, Marianne P. Bitler and Cynthia Van Der Werf Cuadros, University of California, Davis

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are the two largest food assistance programs in the US, and along with the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program play a crucial role alleviating the food and nutrition needs of poor households. Households with children, in particular, often participate in more than one of these programs. Yet, little is known about the relationship among them, and in particular between SNAP and school meal programs. Evidence suggests that SNAP benefits are not enough to cover a family’s food needs for the entire benefit cycle. In this context, school lunch (and school breakfast) might play a role ameliorating declines in food consumption at the end of the SNAP month. To be sure, the generosity of benefits and geographic variation in food prices of the thrifty food plan (TFP), the timing of benefit issuance, program roll-out and expansion, and the overall retail environment will also affect how households use these programs and their success in mitigating food insecurity, and improving nutrition.

The proposed panel includes four papers that address these different factors and provide insights into the program features and efficacy of SNAP and other food assistance programs. Indeed, instead of examining SNAP in isolation from the overall food assistance and food retail environment, the four papers in the panel explicitly focus on these relationships. They investigate a variety of outcomes such as school lunch (breakfast) participation, the healthy eating index, food prices, and food stores. To do so, they use nationally representative data sources on food acquisitions, program participation, and grocery store prices. Two of the papers use the newly available Household Food Acquisitions and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), including their Geography Component (FoodAPS-CG) while the other two papers rely on the Nielsen Retail Scanner Data, Decennial Censuses, and County Business Patterns. Taken together the papers in this panel shed light on how SNAP influences household food consumption, and nutrition outcomes in the presence of other food assistance programs, as well how SNAP program design features influence food prices, the retail environment, and the food choices facing those who benefit from it.

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