RIDGE Center
Food Assistance
and Nutrition Information Series

The SRDC is pleased to announce its new Food Assistance and Nutrition Information Series as a part of the Economic Research Service's Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) program. These briefs take a look at existing RIDGE reports and make me them more accessible for general audiences.

Food Assistance and Nutrition Information Series

The High Price of Food Exacts a High Price on Low-Income Children's Weight

Amid growing concern over childhood obesity, policymakers have begun to wonder what role federal food programs can play in combatting obesity in children. Approximately one-third of U.S. children are overweight and 16 percent are obese. Low-income children are at particular risk, as income has long been associated with obesity. In the new RIDGE Food Assistance and Nutrition Information Series brief, researchers Elizabeth Rigby, The George Washington University, and Rachel Tolbert Kimbro, Rice University, discuss the impact of cost of living on childhood obesity. They find in cities where food is more expensive, federal food assistance programs, in particular the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, may be contributing to early childhood obesity, while in low-cost cities, they may be deterring it.

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One-Size Doesn't Fit All: Different Reasons Drive Food Stamp Use in Areas across the South

Many factors contribute to poverty, including place. Some areas, for example, have higher unemployment rates, while others have high concentrations of people with less education or highly segregated minority populations, all of which are known to raise the risk for poverty. This brief, based on research by Tim Slack and Candice Myers, Louisiana State University, looks at what factors influence food stamp use in the South. Exploring age, segregation, education, they explore reasons for food stamp uses in historically high-poverty areas.

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Food Stamps Target Those Most in Need

The federal food stamp program helps approximately 15 million households (about 34 million individuals) put food on the table each year. At $39 billion in 2008, the budget of the program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is nearly two-thirds of the USDA's food assistance budget. Not surprisingly, given the outlay, policymakers want to know its impact on participants' nutrition and health. Steven Yen, Donald Bruce, and Lisa Jahns in their recent paper offer some insights on who benefits from the program and how. Specifically, they examine the relationship between SNAP participation and health and participants' social and demographic characteristics.

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Incomes or Attitudes? What Determines Whether Mothers in the WIC Program Dilute or Concentrate Baby Formula

The first few months of life may help cement more than bonding for an infant. These important months may also imprint patterns of eating that can contribute to obesity later in life. Several studies have found that infant feeding practices, particularly breast-fed versus formula-fed options, can contribute to early weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of childhood weight issues. Infants fed formula, for example, tend to take in more energy and grow at a faster rate than breastfed infants in the first year. Formula-fed infants are also more likely to be overfed and may be less able to self-regulate their intake. What leads to this trend among formula-fed infants is unclear, but some have pointed to a mother’s attitudes, abilities, and beliefs about infant feeding as a possible reason for the distinctions. Katherine Kavanagh and Cary Springer, in their recent paper, explore mothers’ attitudes toward feeding patterns, and add a new possibility: how the mother prepares the formula—whether she concentrates or dilutes it.

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Rural Seniors Have Fewer Options for Healthy Diets

Eating well is a critical component in a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet can help prevent or ease chronic conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol or blood pressure, or obesity. For seniors, who suffer more chronic conditions, diet can be an important (and less expensive) way to manage their health. However, choosing the right foods is only one part of eating well. Having access to quality foods at affordable prices is an often overlooked second component to a healthy diet. As Joseph Sharkey, Scott Horel, and Cassandra Johnson report in their recent study, seniors in rural communities find that getting to a well-stocked and affordable grocery store is frequently a challenge.

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The South Does Not Make You Fat: A Study of Nutrition, Food Security, and Obesity

By now it is common knowledge that America is fat. Two-thirds of adults, according to a recent study, are overweight or obese, up from 15 percent in 1980. It is also frequently reported that obesity rates are higher in the South, but can region itself be a contributing factor? Researchers Patricia A. Duffy, Claire Zizza, and Henry Kinnucan asked this question in their recent paper "Nutrition, Food Security, and Obesity among Low-Income Residents of the South," and they found that the South does not make you fat.

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RIDGE Center

ERS

The Economic Research Service provides Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics to stimulate innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues. The SRDC is one of two partnership institutions.