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Image: Food Nutrition & Assistance

Project Descriptions 2011

ERS's competitive grants and cooperative agreements program made 10 awards* in fiscal 2011 to fund research on relationships between food assistance programs, food choices, and the economy; and using behavioral economics and incentives to promote child nutrition.

Food Assistance Programs, Food Choices, and the Economy

Effect of New WIC Food Packages on Breastfeeding and Food Package Choices
Dr. Theodore Joyce
National Bureau of Economic Research, New York, NY

This study will analyze changes in breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity, duration, and choice of food package associated with recent revisions in the food packages issued to participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).  Revisions to the WIC food packages, implemented in 2009, restrict issuance of formula to infants of partially breastfeeding women in the first month, with the goal of encouraging women to exclusively breastfeed. The study will use the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS) in 17 States and program administrative data in 5 States.

Grant: $198,000

An Examination of WIC Participant Redemption Patterns In Kentucky Prior to and After Implementation of Electronic Benefits Transfer
Mr. Loren Bell
Altarum Institute, Ann Arbor, MI

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is moving from State agency-issued vouchers to pay for authorized foods to State-run electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems. This study will examine how the changeover affects participants' selection of authorized foods and where participants shop, utilizing redemption data from Kentucky collected before the transition (2011) and after (2012). The study will also examine post-transition data from Nevada and Michigan.

Grant: $176,000

Using the National Food and Nutrition Survey (NATFAN) to Examine WIC Participant Food Choices and Intakes Before and After Changes in the Food Benefit
Dr. Carol Spaulding
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

This project will assess the impact of the new WIC food packages on food choices and intakes of selected items for women, infants, and children, using data from the National Food and Nutrition Survey of WIC Participants (NATFAN). Over 50 State and territorial WIC programs participated in the NATFAN survey, which collected information regarding WIC client attitudes, knowledge, purchasing, and consumption practices before and after the food package changes. The project will also assemble a publicly available dataset of the NATFAN survey.

Grant: $200,000

The Economics of Beverage Choices among WIC and SNAP participants
Dr. Tatiana Andreyeva
Yale University, New Haven, CT

This study will examine the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) among participants in USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in two Northeastern States. It has three aims: (1) to describe the purchase behavior of WIC recipients; (2) to examine how sensitive SNAP participants' SSB purchases are to changes in SSB taxation, and (3) to evaluate whether changes to the WIC food package induced changes in purchase behavior over time, since the changes to WIC packages took place during the period under study.

Assistance Type Cooperative Agreement: $129,000

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Household Spending: A Flexible Demand System Approach
Dr. Tullaya Boonsaeng
Clemson University, Clemson, SC

This project examines the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program), household socioeconomic and geographic characteristics, and selected prices on household spending for food and nonfood items. A flexible two-stage household budgeting framework and data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  Consumer Expenditure Survey and other extant sources are used to estimate household response parameters.

Cooperative Research Agreement: $105,000

Local Area Determinants of Nutrition Assistance Program Caseloads
Dr. Caroline Danielson
Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA

This project uses county-level data on food assistance program caseloads and measures of the economy to improve our understanding of how participation in the three largest U.S. nutrition assistance programs-the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)-varies with the state of the local economy.

Assistance Type Cooperative Agreement:  $221,000

The Effect of Food Programs on Alternative Poverty Measures
Dr. Linda Giannarelli
The Urban Institute, Washington, DC

This project assesses the extent to which nutrition programs reduced poverty before, during, and after the 2007-2009 recession. Poverty is measured using the U.S. Census Bureau's current version of the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). Unlike the official poverty measure, which considers only cash income, the SPM includes all key family resources, including near-cash income from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Grant: $171,000

Using Behavioral Economics and Incentives to Promote Child Nutrition

Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (additional funding)
Dr. David Just
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

The Center will facilitate new and innovative research on the application of behavioral economic theory to child nutrition program operations and activities, leading to program improvements that will benefit children's diets and health; broaden social scientist participation in such research; and disseminate research findings to key stakeholder groups, including other researchers, policy and program officials, and the general public.

Grant: $571,000

Using Nudges and Incentives to Promote Long-Run Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables in Children
Dr. Joseph Price
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

This project examines whether a set of behavioral economics-based interventions implemented in 30 elementary schools in Utah that result in short-term increases in children's healthy food choices also change long-run habits and if so, how long it takes to produce lasting changes. In addition, the project examines the simultaneous effects of multiple small behavioral economics-based changes, to see if simultaneous use results in synergistic effects, crowd-out effects, or even boomerang effects.

Grant: $244,000

Long-term Effects of Incentivizing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Dr. Gregory Madden
Utah State University, Logan, UT

This study will build on the results of earlier research, to examine the long-term effects of the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Program, which encourages consumption of fruit and vegetables among elementary schoolchildren. Results released in late September 2011 showed that fruit and vegetable consumption increased by more than 40 percent among schoolchildren when the Food Dudes incentives were in place. This followup study will examine the effect on students' food choices after the Food Dudes Program has been in place for a year in six Utah elementary schools.

Grant: $155,000

*Award amounts are rounded to the nearest thousand.

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Last updated: Monday, June 04, 2012

For more information contact: Victor Oliveira