IRP RIDGE Center Annual Research Themes
The Impacts of Food Assistance Programs on Food Security, Consumption Patterns, Food Choices, Nutritional Outcomes, and Other Diet-Related Health Outcomes
2013–2014 Call for Proposals and Award Guidelines (PDF) (Letter of intent due April 15, 2013; proposal due April 30, 2013)
Food assistance programs have grown dramatically in recent years. This is most prominent in the case of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), enrollment in which has doubled over the past decade, though substantial growth is also evident in school meal programs. Program growth has occurred in conjunction with other trends, including persistently high poverty and food insecurity rates, high rates of diet-linked health problems, and growing attention to the health implications of food choices. Due in part to these converging trends, there is increasing interest in the potential of food assistance programs as vehicles for influencing food insecurity, food choices, food consumption patterns, and diet-linked health outcomes such as obesity and early-onset diabetes.
A variety of research has explored the impact of food assistance programs on food insecurity, with the bulk of this effort focused on SNAP, and considered a range of strategies to address differences between participants and nonparticipants. Less research has focused on the impact of other food assistance programs on food insecurity, or on a more nuanced understanding of the programmatic and nonprogrammatic factors that may influence the relationship between food assistance programs and food hardships. Likewise there remain many unanswered questions related to the impact of food assistance programs on food consumption patterns, including effects that may stem from timing and cyclicality of benefits, seasonal differences in availability (in the case of school meals), changes in foods provided (such as with WIC), and similar questions. And while a growing body of work has examined food assistance and obesity, there has been less attention to other diet-linked health outcomes in which food assistance could play a role.
The 2013–2014 IRP RIDGE Center for National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research funding competition seeks to expand understanding of these issues by focusing on the impacts of food assistance programs on food insecurity (at various severity levels), consumption patterns, food choices, nutritional outcomes, and other diet-related health outcomes. Overall, we are seeking to fund work that expands our understanding of the importance of food assistance programs in influencing a variety of outcomes directly linked to the food and nutrition focus of the programs.
We are especially seeking proposals that go beyond broad questions of whether programs are linked to food security outcomes; we have particular interest in proposals that examine more nuanced questions involving the role of program characteristics, interactions between assistance programs and local contexts, the impacts of multiple program participation, impacts that may differ across populations or circumstances, and similar topics. We hope to fund research examining a range of food assistance programs (SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Programs, WIC), and a range of food- and nutrition-related outcomes.