USDA Invests in Research on Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs
Release No.
Mary Reardon (202) 694-5136

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2011—Agriculture Under Secretary Dr. Catherine Woteki today announced new research grants and cooperative agreement awards in eight states and the District of Columbia designed to examine, evaluate, and enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) nutrition assistance programs.

"USDA is working every day to invest wisely and to make sure that our nutrition assistance programs are a bridge to success for hard-working Americans and their families," said Woteki. "By investing in research on nutrition programs, we can help maximize their effectiveness and efficiency, benefitting millions of Americans."

USDA continues to enhance nutrition program integrity and delivery even as demand has increased in response to national economic conditions. This year, USDA is investing in process improvement efforts that examine local office processes and identify and implement efficiencies. The department is also interested in funding projects that use technology to achieve procedural changes, such as document imaging, telephone interviews or Web-based access to case status information.

The grants and cooperative agreements will fund projects in California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. The projects will examine a number of program-related issues, including:

  • the effect of new food packages for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, on the prevalence of breastfeeding;
  • the effect of switching to electronic benefits transfer (EBT) in WIC on benefit redemptions;
  • the effect of the new WIC food packages on participants' food choices;
  • beverage choices made by WIC participants;
  • the effect of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on food choices;
  • how state program policies and local labor market conditions affect  food assistance program participation; and
  • the impacts of food assistance programs on alternative methods of assessing poverty.

USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs—including SNAP, WIC, and the school meals programs—affect the lives of millions of people each day. About one in four Americans participates in at least one food assistance program at some point during the year.

The research projects are competitively awarded by USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) through a publicly announced and peer-reviewed process. These competitive grants and cooperative agreements fund research on the relationships among food assistance programs, food choices, and the economy; and on using behavioral economics and incentives to promote child nutrition. The latter topic is part of an ongoing collaboration with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) initiated in FY 2010 to develop a research program in behavioral economics as applied to USDA's child nutrition programs.

Following is a complete list of 2011 awards and recipients.

Food Assistance Programs, Food Choices, and the Economy

Dr. Theodore Joyce, Cambridge, MA, National Bureau of Economic Research
Effect of New WIC Food Packages on Breastfeeding and Food Package Choices ($198,000)

Mr. Loren Bell, Ann Arbor, MI, Altarum Institute
An Examination of WIC Participant Redemption Patterns In Kentucky Prior to and After Implementation of Electronic Benefits Transfer ($176,000)

Dr. Carol Spaulding, College Station, TX, Texas A&M University
Using the National Food and Nutrition Survey (NATFAN) to Examine WIC Participant Food Choices and Intakes Before and After Changes in the Food Benefit ($200,000)

Dr. Tatiana Andreyeva, New Haven, CT, Yale University
The Economics of Beverage Choices among WIC and SNAP participants ($129,000)

Dr. Tullaya Boonsaeng, Clemson, SC, Clemson University
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Household Spending: A Flexible Demand System Approach ($105,000)

Dr. Caroline Danielson, San Francisco, CA, Public Policy Institute of California
Local Area Determinants of Nutrition Assistance Program Caseloads ($221,000)

Dr. Linda Giannarelli, Washington, DC, The Urban Institute
The Effect of Food Programs on Alternative Poverty Measures ($171,000)

Using Behavioral Economics and Incentives to Promote Child Nutrition

Dr. David Just, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University
Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (additional funding -$571,000)

Dr. Joseph Price, Provo, UT, Brigham Young University
Using Nudges and Incentives to Promote Long-Run Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables in Children ($244,000)

Dr. Gregory Madden, Logan, UT, Utah State University
Long-term Effects of Incentivizing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption ($155,000)

* Rounded to nearest 1,000.