IRP RIDGE Center Visiting Scholars

Call for 2015–2016 Visiting Food Assistance Scholar Applications (deadline is May 15, 2015)

Each year, the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) invites applications from U.S.-based food assistance scholars to visit the IRP\RIDGE Center for National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research for one to two weeks during the academic year, interact with its faculty in residence, and become acquainted with the staff and resources of the Institute.

The intent of the IRP Research, Innovation, and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Center is to stimulate innovative research related to food assistance programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and school breakfast and lunch, and to support training of researchers interested in food assistance issues.

Visits of one to two weeks’ duration can be supported during either fall or spring semester of the academic year. The scholars will be invited to give a seminar, to work on their own projects, and to confer with IRP faculty affiliates. Transportation, lodging, and meal expenses will be covered by IRP.

Calls for applications are released in April each year for visits to take place during the following academic year. View the pdf version of the 2014-2015 Call for Visiting Food Assistance Scholar Applications. Applications were due June 16, 2014.

2014–2015 Food Assistance Scholars

Darcy Freedman

Darcy Freedman

Darcy Freedman will be in residence at IRP for a week from October 27 through 31, 2014. On October 30 she will present a seminar on "Moving Beyond Can Drives and Farmers' Markets to Improve Food Security and Public Health." Freedman is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics of the School of Medicine; core faculty at the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods; and associate professor in the Mandel School for Applied Social Sciences, at Case Western Reserve University.

Freedman earned her PhD in Community Research and Action from Vanderbilt University in 2008. She brings to her research and teaching a transdisciplinary background in community psychology, public health, and women's and gender studies, and practice experience forming and directing the Community Food Advocates food security coalition. She seeks to promote health equity through community-engaged research focused on improving access to nutritious foods in low-income neighborhoods.

Current research includes a community-based participatory research study carried out in partnership with a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in rural South Carolina to establish the first FQHC-based farmers' market in the state—the Right Choice Fresh Start Farmers' Market (RCFS). The RCFS is now a model for integrating food access interventions into health care delivery systems that serve medically underserved populations, many of whom are recipients of food assistance benefits.

Freedman is also serving as a co-investigator on the "Midlands Family Study," one of the largest USDA-funded studies of children experiencing very low food security. (See a slide presentation about the Midlands Family Study.) A new study, "FreshLink," led by Freedman is focused on increasing social access to nutritious foods among SNAP beneficiaries. The goal of the FreshLink study is to examine social norms related to using (1) farmers' markets, and (2) food assistance incentive programs for purchasing fruits and vegetables, and (3) the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program among SNAP beneficiaries in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jonathan Schwabish

Jonathan Schwabish

Jonathan Schwabish will be in residence at IRP from May 4 through 8, 2015. On May 7, he will present a seminar. He is a Senior Research Associate in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. His primary research includes earnings and income inequality, immigration, disability insurance, retirement security, data measurement, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Widely known as an expert in the data visualization field, he also serves as a member of the Institute's Communications team.

Schwabish's ongoing and future work includes investigation the relationship between state-level SNAP policies and individual participation decisions. As an economist at the Congressional Budget Office, Schwabish coauthored a report on SNAP with Molly Dahl, Kathleen FitzGerald, Emily Holcombe, and Molly Dahl entitled, "An Overview of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." In his role as an expert in data visualization, Schwabish also authored an "infographic" on the same topic.

Schwabish is currently working on two food assistance projects. The first project examines the characteristics of children who receive meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). Although in 2013 nearly 31 million children received meals through NSLP and more than 13 million children received meals through SBP, there is little information about the demographic characteristics of those children. Using repeated samples from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), Schwabish is documenting the characteristics of participating children over time.

His second food assistance-related project examines earnings patterns of SNAP recipients before, during, and after their SNAP spells. Using the SIPP data matched to Social Security Administration administrative earnings records, he is evaluating patterns in earnings for people for whom he observes a terminal SNAP period of participation. He then examines whether SNAP participation helps support people as they bridge the gap between periods of higher earnings or whether it acts as a magnet and encourages people to stay on the program for prolonged periods of time.

2013–2014 Food Assistance Scholars

Debra Brucker

Debra BruckerPosition: Researcher, University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability and Lecturer, for the School of Continuing Studies (online) at Northwestern University
Visit Dates: March 10–14, 2014.
Seminar: March 13, 2014, Title TBA
Mentor: Judith Bartfeld, director of the IRP RIDGE Center

Brucker earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Delaware in 1995 and a Ph.D. in planning and public policy from Rutgers University in 2007. She has held social and health policy research positions at academic institutions, research organizations, and state agencies. As an investigator on several grants funded through the Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, she uses national level survey data (e.g. Current Population Survey, Survey of Income and Program Participation) to measure the well-being and public program participation of persons with disabilities. Brucker serves on the Governor's Commission on Disability and Employment and the State Rehabilitation Council in her home state of Maine.

Read the abstract of Brucker's recent article coauthored with Andrew J. Houtenville on "Participation in Safety-Net Programs and the Utilization of Employment Services among Working-Age Persons with Disabilities," Journal of Disability Policy Studies, February 14, 2013, doi: 10.1177/1044207312474308.

Mariana Chilton

Mariana ChiltonPosition: Associate Professor, Department of Health Management and Policy, Drexel University School of Public Health, and Director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities,
Visit Dates: February 10–14, 2014
Seminar: February 13, 2014, Title TBA
Mentor: Judith Bartfeld, director of the IRP RIDGE Center

Chilton received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Oklahoma, and Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University. She directs the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University, a research and advocacy center that seeks to develop innovative, proven solutions to hunger and economic insecurity. She founded Witnesses to Hunger, a Center initiative and research and advocacy project that partners with mothers and caregivers of young children who have experienced hunger and poverty to create photographs and stories that explore their lived experience. The project aims to increase women's participation in the national dialogue on hunger and poverty in a way that could bring in legislators, the public, and other researchers into a dialogue that would be lasting and impactful.

Chilton has testified before the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on the importance of child nutrition programs and other antipoverty policies. She has served as an advisor to Sesame Street and to the Institute of Medicine. Her awards include the "Nourish Award"; from MANNA, the “Unsung Hero Award” for Improving the Lives of Women and Girls from Women's Way and the Young Professional Award in Maternal and Child Health from the American Public Health Association.  Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, public radio and CBS National News.

See the website of the Witnesses to Hunger project of the Drexel University School of Public Health Center for Hunger-Free Communities.

2012–2013 Food Assistance Scholars

Daniel P. Miller

Daniel Miller

Daniel P. Miller, an assistant professor of human behavior in the Boston University School of Social Work, will be in residence from April 13 through 19, 2013. He will present a seminar on April 18.

Miller earned a Ph.D. with distinction in social policy and policy analysis from the Columbia University School of Social Work in 2009. His research and practice interests include child obesity and the effects of the environment on racial and ethnic disparities in rates of overweight and obesity; the intersection of developmental science and social policy; and father involvement and child outcomes. He maintains an interdisciplinary research focus, although his over-abiding interest is in the health and well-being of children and families. He is committed to maintaining his focus on child health by expanding his focus on child food insecurity and food assistance programs.

Miller is a co-principal investigator of a grant, Nonresident Fathers' Involvement and Welfare Policies: Impacts on Childhood Hunger, which has been funded by the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. Two specific projects funded by the grant are a paper, which takes the novel approach of using multiple datasets to examine whether the prevalence of child food insecurity differs by family structure (two biological parent, single biological mother, cohabiting biological parent, and repartnered biological mother), and how rates of food insecurity change by child age. The second is a paper extending this first effort using growth curve modeling to examine how changes in family structure affect the food insecurity of children in middle to late childhood.

Taryn W. Morrissey

Taryn Morrissey

Taryn W. Morrissey, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University, will be in residence from March 11 through 15, 2013. She will present a seminar on March 14.

Morrissey earned a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Cornell University in 2008, with a minor in social and health systems planning. She was a 2008 to 2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Congressional Fellow, and was subsequently hired as a Health Policy Advisor on the staff of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, first for Senator Edward Kennedy and then for Senator Tom Harkin. Morrissey worked primarily on federal health reform legislation, particularly child and maternal health and workforce issues.

Morrissey is interested in the social and economic determinants of children's health and development. Two key areas of focus are the macro- and family-level processes and characteristics that affect children's physical development. At the macro level, her ongoing research, funded by an IRP RIDGE Center grant, examines how local food prices affect young children's body mass index (BMI), eating habits, and food insecurity, and the role that public food assistance plays in exacerbating or mitigating these effects. In related collaborative work also funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she investigates the neighborhood- and family-level predictors of entry into and exit from food insecurity among children prior to entering elementary school.

2011–2012 Food Assistance Scholars

Andrea Anater

Andrea Anater, a public health nutrition researcher at RTI International, will be in residence at IRP from March 5 through 9, 2012. She will present a seminar on her work on March 8.

Anater completed her Ph.D. in Health, Behavior, and Society at Johns Hopkins University, where she was also a National Institutes of Health predoctoral fellow and a Center for a Livable Future predoctoral fellow. Much of Anater’s research has focused on the ways that limited-resource households develop food-acquisition coping strategies outside the assistance of government safety net programs and emergency food providers such as food pantries. In a current USDA-funded project, Anater is developing basic categorizations of food security with the goal of using the findings to develop specific program and policy interventions to ensure that individuals have adequate access to food to sustain a healthy life.

Anater’s host and mentor during her visit will be RIDGE Center Director Judith Bartfeld.

Rusty Tchernis

Rusty Tchernis is associate professor of economics in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).  He will be in residence at IRP from April 9 through April 13, 2012. He will present a seminar on April 11.

Tchernis’s primary areas of research are applied econometrics, health economics, and labor economics. In particular, Tchernis has evaluated school breakfast and lunch programs, the effects of various environmental and geographical factors on childhood obesity, and the ways in which participation in food assistance programs changes the ways that families devote their time to other household tasks. His 2010 edited volume with Daniel Slottje entitled Current Issues in Health Economics brings together leading health economics researchers to examine issues of preventive care and effective use of finite health care resources.

Tchernis will be hosted and mentored by RIDGE Center Director Judith Bartfeld during his stay at IRP.

Christopher Wimer

Christopher Wimer is associate director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (CPI) and senior editor of CPI’s Pathways magazine. He will be in residence at IRP from April 9 through 13, 2012, and will be presenting a special seminar on Wednesday, April 10.

Wimer earned a Ph.D. in sociology and social policy from Harvard University in 2007. His main research interests are in inequality, neighborhoods, employment, and family. At CPI, he is engaged in efforts to improve poverty measurement at both the local and national levels, as well as efforts to understand the impacts of the Great Recession on family behaviors and young adults. Alongside these efforts, Wimer has worked with colleagues at CPI to create the San Francisco Economic Distress Index using a variety of public data indicators.  Also, in a partnership with the San Francisco Food Bank, he has helped develop measurements of unmet food need in the city of San Francisco.

With a grant from IRP’s RIDGE Center, Wimer and colleagues are studying attitudes and behaviors of non-users of food assistance in order to better understand ways that food assistance programs could meet the needs of more food-insecure people.

IRP Podcast with Christopher Wimer, Measuring unmet food need in San Francisco and Marin County (May 2012)

Wimer will be hosted and mentored by RIDGE Center Director Judith Bartfeld during his visit.

2010–2011 Food Assistance Scholars

David E. Frisvold

David E. Frisvold, assistant professor of economics, Emory University, will be in residence April 25 through 29, 2011. On April 28 he will present a seminar at IRP on his recent work, "The Federal Reimbursement Rate and the Nutritional Quality of School Meals."

Frisvold received a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University in 2006 and was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan from 2006–2008. During his IRP visit, he will continue his research on the influence of federal reimbursement rates on the nutrition quality of meals provided through the School Breakfast Program (SBP), a project that is an extension of his IRP RIDGE-funded (2008–09) research on the impact of the availability of the SBP on cognitive achievement.

He is interested in understanding whether food assistance programs, particularly the SBP, improve the nutrition and school performance of low-income children. His current research on the impact of the availability of the SBP on cognitive achievement and childhood obesity suggests that state mandates that require schools to offer the SBP have improved childhood outcomes. Yet, an improvement in the quality of the meals provided could perhaps further benefit children. Additionally, as food prices have increased more so than the federal reimbursement rate in recent years, there is the possibility that the nutritional quality of meals will decrease. He is interested in understanding how the federal reimbursement rate influences the nutritional quality of breakfast and, in turn, whether students consume breakfast.

Frisvold’s host and mentor during his stay will be RIDGE Center Director Judith Bartfeld.

H. Luke Shaefer

H. Luke Shaefer, assistant professor of social work, University of Michigan, and research affiliate, National Poverty Center, will be in residence February 28–March 4, 2011. On March 3 he will present a seminar at IRP on his recent work, "The Effects of SNAP on the Food Security of Poor Families with Children: New Evidence using an Instrumental Variables Approach."

He is co-principal investigator on a two-year project to examine food assistance and child well-being in collaboration with Sheldon Danziger. The project builds on his existing research on families supported by low-wage workers, economic shocks, and the U.S. social safety net. He is analyzing data from the 2004 and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), utilizing topical modules with data on food security and other measures of well-being.

Shaefer is examining the effects of participation in food assistance programs on well-being for children living in low-income families that experience adverse economic shocks—job loss, divorce, or separation. The analyses focus on the two largest food assistance programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) and the National School Lunch Program (for children receiving free or reduced-price lunches). The primary measure of child well-being will be food insecurity, a key outcome used by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to evaluate food assistance programs.

Shaefer’s host and mentor during his stay will be RIDGE Center Director Judith Bartfeld.