2010–2011 Funded IRP RIDGE Center Grants

External Awards

Four food assistance research proposals were awarded funding for 2010–2011 by the IRP RIDGE Center for National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research in conjunction with the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grants in the amount of $40,000 run from July 1, 2010, through December 31, 2011, and are the first in what will be four rounds of 18-month awards for food assistance research since ERS named IRP as the Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Center for National Research in January 2010, following a national competition. The next request for proposals will be released in mid-February 2011 and posted on this Web site.

Proposals funded for the period July 1, 2010, to December 31, 2011

Abstracts

Food Security and Food Access
Alessandro Bonanno, Pennsylvania State University

The analysis of the factors that enable food stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation to reduce food insecurity has been so far neglected. Food insecure households joining SNAP will be better off if they have access to a source of food (preferably low priced). As food access is exogenous for low-income individuals (they have limited resources, and therefore limited mobility), the characteristics of the food environment surrounding them becomes a key factor in the effectiveness of the policy. The objective of this study is to analyze the role of food access in SNAP’s ability to mitigate food insecurity. In particular, the study will consider both the access to traditional food retailers (grocery stores and specialty food stores) and to a low-priced nontraditional alternative, Wal-Mart Supercenters.

DP 1399-12 | Focus 29:1

Explaining the Increase in SNAP Caseloads during the Recovery of 2003–2007
Robert J. LaLonde and Janna E. Johnson, University of Chicago

The recent recession has seen an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) caseloads of over 30 percent. However, the period following the 2001 recession also saw an increase in SNAP caseloads, the first time in program history that caseloads rose during a period of economic recovery. This project will attempt to explain this phenomenon by decomposing caseload changes into their basic mechanical components: changes in the number of eligibles, participation rates among the eligibles, and spell length. We will then determine the underlying causes of these mechanical movements to more precisely specify the relationship between macroeconomic conditions, policy changes, and SNAP caseloads than has previously been done.

DP 1397-12 | Focus 29:1

Bridging the Gap: Do Farmers’ Markets Help Alleviate Impacts of Food Deserts?
Vicki A. McCracken, Washington State University

Existing research in the area of food deserts and community food security lacks significant empirical, spatially relevant support for developing a sound understanding on the variation of effectiveness of federal food assistance programs in relation to local food systems. This proposed research will begin to fill this void by first establishing the traditionally conceived food desert estimation for Washington state using grocery store location and census demographic data, followed by an expansion using farmers’ markets and a behaviorally appropriate measure of travel characteristics to such markets. Following these estimations, we will move beyond the typical food desert analysis by operationalizing them via an assessment of the variation in redemption rates and utilization of federal food assistance programs (SNAP, WIC, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, FMNP). SNAP data will be obtained from the 20 pilot markets located in Washington, while complete WIC and Senior FMNP data has been obtained for 2009 from all approved farmers’ markets.

DP 1401-12 | Focus 29:1

Estimating the Impact of Food Stamps on the Poverty Rate Using a National Academy of Sciences-Style Poverty Measure for New York City
Mark Levitan and Daniel Scheer, New York City Center for Economic Opportunity

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) developed an alternative poverty measure for New York City based on the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) recommendations. The creation of an alternative method for measuring poverty, particularly one that accounts for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, is well-timed; over the course of the current recession, SNAP has become an increasingly significant element of the social safety net. As a result, researchers and policymakers have become acutely interested in understanding the degree to which increased SNAP participation has ameliorated the impact of the recent economic downturn on families vulnerable to poverty. An NAS-style poverty measure is well-suited to this task.

DP 1398-12 | Focus 29:1

Internal Award

In addition to awarding subgrants to national competitors, the IRP food assistance research center awarded a 12-month subgrant to the top UW–Madison proposal.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Household Finances: Can Food Assistance Mitigate Financial Shocks?
Maximilian Schmeiser, Consumer Education & Research Section, Division of Consumer & Community Affairs, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and IRP Affiliate

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as the Food Stamps Program—is the largest in-kind benefit provided to low-income families in the United States. In fiscal year 2009, the SNAP served 33.7 million low-income persons and provided total benefits worth over $50 billion (USDA, 2010). From the start of the recession in December of 2007 to December of 2009, the number of SNAP recipients increased by over 10 million persons, going from 27.6 million recipients to 39.0 million recipients. The SNAP program has become one of the primary fiscal stabilizers during the current economic crisis, paying out an average of $293 per month to recipient households (USDA, 2010). For a person recently unemployed, SNAP benefits represent a significant supplement to their income, as the average weekly unemployment benefit amount paid in the United States was only $310 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). As housing costs represent the largest single household expenditure, this additional $293 per month may be the difference between families making their mortgage payments or not.

This study examines the effect of participation in the SNAP program on a family’s ability to meet its mortgage obligations and avoid foreclosure. In order to address the potential endogeneity between the decision to participate in the SNAP program and a borrower’s ability to make their mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure several different estimation strategies are employed, including the use of family fixed-effects to eliminate any time invariant unobserved heterogeneity, and an instrumental variables strategy that exploits exogenous cross-state variation in SNAP eligibility requirements and program characteristics to predict participation in the SNAP program.

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