Food Assistance Needs of the South's Vulnerable Populations
- Overweight and Obesity in the South
- Food Availability & Food Deserts in the Nonmetropolitan South
- Working more but staying poor
- Preventing Childhood Obesity
- Waiting for Dinner
- Patterns of Food Stamp Receipt by Noncitizens in Rural Texas Counties
- Knowledge of Charitable Choice Among Food Pantry Directors in the Deep South
- Opinions of EBT Recipients and Food Retailers in the Rural South
- The Challenge of Compliance: Food Security in Rural Households Affected by Welfare Reform
- Do Food Stamps Without Education Improve the Nutrient Intake and Food-Related Behaviors of Recipients?
- Declining Food Stamp Program Participation: A Concern for the Rural South?
- Faith-Based Food Assistance in the Rural South
- Food Insufficiency and the Use of Food Assistance Programs in the South
PUBLICATION ARCHIVE SERIES
Food Assistance Needs of the South's Vulnerable Populations
State and federal policymakers have introduced significant changes to our nation's public assistance programs in recent years. In some cases, these policy changes have produced unexpected declines in food assistance program enrollments on the part of our nation's low-wealth population. In other cases, declining enrollments have been the product of other factors, such as limited access to human service agency offices by poor individuals/families, or aversion to the use of food assistance programs on the part of ethnic minorities. Understanding the factors impacting the food assistance participation patterns of poor adults and families in the South is an important avenue of research that the SRDC has supported as part of the RIDGE program.
Food Assistance Challenges
Food assistance and food security issues remain of paramount importance in the Southern region of the United States. The reason is quite simple – the South heads the nation in terms of the number of low-income households experiencing very low food security. Given that food insecurity is closely linked to poverty, and that the South remains the most impoverished area of the country, it is clear that food assistance challenges will continue to confront our region. Since Hispanics and African-Americans are projected to be the major drivers of our region's population expansion over the next decade, and poverty rates remain highest among these racial and ethnic groups, it is critical for the SRDC to invest in research that helps expand our understanding of the food assistance needs of these important population groups.
Impacts of Food Assistance Policies
Implementing sound policies that meet the food assistance needs of low-wealth people, families and households in a fiscally sound manner remains an important role of our federal and state governments. When new food assistance policies are enacted, careful assessments by the social sciences community are needed if the implications of these policy shifts are to be fully understood. Important RIDGE-supported research in the South has been dedicated to examining how changes in various programs, such as the Food Stamp Program, welfare assistance and dietary guidelines, have played out in the region, selected states or rural counties in the South.
The problem of food insecurity – the lack of access to enough food at all times to maintain active, healthy living – is most pronounced in the Southern region of the United States. The latest data released by the Economic Research Service notes that food insecurity now stands at 12 percent among Southern households. Hardest hit are households headed by a female with children present, African-Americans, Hispanics and Southerners living below the poverty line. The SRDC's investments in research addressing food security and hunger via the RIDGE program are designed to delineate the set of individual, household and community factors that may be amplifying the food security challenges faced by Southerners today.
Food Access: Quality and Cost
One of the key goals associated with of our nation's 15 food assistance programs is to provide children and low-income adults with access to healthy, nutritious and high quality foods. Despite the commitment to improving the health status of participants, research continues to show that the diet and nutritional outcomes of those taking part in these programs are not as significant as one would expect. But why? While the answers are far from simple, the SRDC has awarded RIDGE grants to a variety of researchers whose purpose has been to decipher the set of contextual or environmental factors that could be at play in shaping the nutritional health of low-wealth people in the rural South.
Nutrition and Obesity
Despite the negative health effects tied to poor nutrition and limited physical activity, the prevalence of obesity and poor diets among our nation's adult and youth population continues to accelerate. Unfortunately, the South leads the nation in terms of the percentage of people who are overweight or obese — conditions that contribute to a myriad of health-related diseases. In fact, eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. These startling statistics are reason enough for the SRDC to focus RIDGE seed funds on efforts to advance our understanding of the factors that shape the nutritional health of adults and children situated in the rural South.
Overweight and Obesity in the South
Jerome R. Kolbo, The University of Southern Mississippi
Amal J. Khoury, University of Florida
Wendy Bounds, The University of Southern Mississippi
Jacquelyn Lee, The University of Southern Mississippi
Overweight and obesity are leading public health concerns in the United States. Although overweight and obesity are preventable conditions in the majority of cases, their prevalence has increased significantly over the past two decades. Recent estimates indicate that 34.1 percent of Americans are classified as overweight, while 32.2 percent are classified as obese . National estimates of obesity-related health care costs are alarming, yet, to date, no such estimates have been published for the Southern region overall or for population groups in the South. The Southern states have some of the highest rates of adult obesity in the nation.
Food Availability & Food Deserts in the Nonmetropolitan South
Troy Blanchard, Mississippi State University, and Thomas Lyson, Cornell University
Over the past thirty years, the structure of food retailing in the United States has changed dramatically. Local grocery stores that once served a small community or neighborhood are increasingly being replaced by regional or national chain grocers. In addition, big box general merchandisers have also entered the retail grocery sector with the advent of hybrid superstores that combine groceries with a wide array of product lines. A key consequence of this restructuring is the growing uneven distribution of food retailers across rural America. For example, Kaufman reports that rural counties in the Lower Mississippi Delta average one supermarket per 190.5 square miles. Additionally, over 70 percent of the low income populations in this region must travel 30 or more miles to access the lower food prices offered by a supermarket or large grocery store. The remaining options included small grocers or convenience stores where consumers are likely to pay substantially higher prices for a smaller variety of lower quality foods.
Working more but staying poor
By Bradford Mills, Brian Whitacre, and Christiana Hilmer
Viginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Families living in poverty increasingly contain adults with a strong attachment to the workforce. These families are not, however, the traditional target of public assistance programs. This policy brief highlights research results from a comprehensive portrait of working families living in poverty, both nationally and in the rural south, using data from the Annual Demographic Files of the Current Population Survey. Three issues are explored. First, what are the characteristics of working poor families and how have they changed over time? Second, what role does public assistance play in the coping strategies of working families? Third, how can public assistance programs be better tailored to address the needs of working poor families?
Preventing Childhood Obesity
Elena Serrano, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Ruby Cox, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Childhood obesity is now a national epidemic with more than one out of eight children considered overweight. While there is heightened concern about the physical and emotional consequences of childhood obesity, there are numerous challenges in addressing the issue. First, several states do not have consistent and reliable sources of data on childhood overweight, including potential contributors, that provide insight into the extent and degree of the problem. Second, the contributors to childhood obesity are multi-factorial and complex. Finally, the solutions require a multipronged and, in some cases, systemic approach. Nevertheless, several legislative opportunities exist to reduce the rate of overweight and improve the health of youth and their families.
Waiting for Dinner: Elderly on the Waiting List for Home-Delivered Meals
Mary Anne Salmon, University of North Carolina School of Social Work
Jessalyn Gooden Bridges, Northwest Piedmont Area Agency on Aging
The home-delivered meals program, often called Meals-on-Wheels, is one of two nutrition services provided under the Title III-C Elderly Nutrition Program of the Older Americans Act. It is designed for people over 60 who are homebound due to health and/or mobility problems. In most cases, the program provides one hot, nutritionally balanced meal per day, five days a week. Meals are designed to meet one-third of an adult's recommended daily intake (RDI).
Patterns of Food Stamp Receipt by Noncitizens in Rural Texas Counties
Steve White, Xiuhong You, Steve Murdock, Texas A&M University
Tami Swenson, University of Minnesota
Food aid is the centerpiece of our nation's social welfare system, with one out of five Americans receiving some type of nutrition assistance from the federal government . However, not all residents of the United States have access to this assistance. The milestone 1996 welfare reform legislation, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), included a lifetime categorical bar on the receipt of food stamp assistance by most noncitizens entering the United States after 1996. Although recent legislation has rescinded the lifetime ban on noncitizens, most newly arrived immigrants must live in the United States for five years in order to establish food stamp eligibility.
Knowledge of Charitable Choice Among Food Pantry Directors in the Deep South
Suzie Cashwell, Western Kentucky University
John Bartkowski, Mississippi State University
Patricia Duffy, Auburn University
Joseph Molnar, Auburn University
Vanessa Casanova, Auburn University
Marina Irimia-Vladu, Auburn University
In an effort to level the playing field between faith-based and secular service providers, the "charitable choice" provision of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law forbids states from discriminating against religious organizations in the competitive bidding process. Following the passage of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law, government funding of faith-based initiatives was slated for expansion at the federal level through the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives as well as its sponsorship of the Charitable Choice Act of 2001 and the CARE Act of 2003 . However, congressional opposition to the federallevel Charitable Choice Act of 2001 and the CARE Act of 2003 did not permit broad implementation of federal funding for faith-based and community groups as had been initially proposed by the Bush administration. Even at the state level, charitable choice has met with a modest reception. Four years after welfare reform, a charitable choice tracking study reported extensive implementation of this policy initiative in only 14 states.
Opinions of EBT Recipients and Food Retailers in the Rural South
Andrew A. Zekeri, Tuskegee University
The Food Stamp Program (FSP) started in 1939 to help the needy families in the depression era. The current program began in 1961. Authorized as a permanent program in 1964, its goal is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by providing monthly benefits to eligible low income households, helping them buy the food they need for good health. According to The Food Stamp Act of 1977, the purpose of the FSP is "to permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet through normal channels of trade." The United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the FSP.
The Challenge of Compliance: Food Security in Rural Households Affected by Welfare Reform
Pamela A. Monroe, Louisiana State University
Carol O'Neil, Louisiana State University
Vicky V. Tiller, Louisiana State University
Jennifer Smith, Louisiana State University
Food security and individual freedom from hunger are widely accepted indicators of our nation's level of commitment to its poor and welfare-reliant citizens. The federal Food Stamp Program allows many poor American citizens and families to have access to at least minimal, adequate amounts of nutritious foods. The Food Stamp Program is regarded as a successful effort in the nation's fight against hunger, but the program is not without limits. Food stamps, together with cash provided by the family, are designed to cover the cost of the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan . However, even with careful planning, a poor family may find itself with few food benefits and very little cash at the end of a month. Food intake may suffer in quantity and nutritional quality at the end of a family's food resource cycle (RC).
Do Food Stamps Without Education Improve the Nutrient Intake and Food-Related Behaviors of Recipients?
Katherine L. Cason, Pennsylvania State University
Ruby H. Cox, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Janie L. Burney, University of Tennessee
The Food Stamp Program is considered a safety net to protect the nutritional health of Americans regardless of age or disability. The program helps put food on the table for more than 9 million households, involving 22 million individuals each day. It provides lowincome households with coupons or electronic benefits they can use like cash at designated grocery stores to help ensure access to a healthy diet. The current program structure was implemented in 1977 with a goal of alleviating hunger and malnutrition by permitting low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet through normal channels of trade. It provided $19.8 billion in benefits in 1998. Despite dedicating billions
Declining Food Stamp Program Participation: A Concern for the Rural South?
Bradford Mills, Jeffrey Alwang, Everett Peterson and Sundar Dorai-Raj
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
The United States experienced impressive declines in public assistance program participation during the latter half of the 1990s. The number of people receiving federal cash public assistance, initially under the Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC) program and then under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grants, declined by 46 percent nationally between 1995 and 1999 (see Figure 1). A smaller, but still substantial decline of 32 percent occurred in Food Stamp Program (FSP) participation for the same period. The rate of decline in individuals on AFDC/TANF was greater in the South than the nation as a whole, while FSP participation declined at a lower rate in the South than nationally.
Faith-Based Food Assistance in the Rural South
John P. Bartkowski, Mississippi State University
Helen A. Regis, Louisiana State University
The Charitable Choice provision in the 1996 welfare reform law identifies religious congregations as a potential outlet for social services underwritten by public monies. Soon after the presidential election, the Bush administration began building a political infrastructure for the massive expansion of publicly funded faith-based initiatives. At the federal level, policymakers, social commentators and even religious groups themselves continue to debate the merits and practicality of using public funds to underwrite the activities of faith-based social service organizations. Yet, since the passage of welfare reform, several states have implemented Charitable Choice partnerships between human service agencies and local faith-based congregations [4,8]. In light of these developments, we embarked on a study to examine the food assistance strategies currently employed by a heterogeneous sample of religious communities in rural Mississippi. Our qualitative study is based on in-depth interview data collected from religious leaders in 30 Mississippi congregations (differing in denomination, size and racial composition), with follow-up observational research collected from a subsample of five congregations.
Food Insufficiency and the Use of Food Assistance Programs in the South
Carol L. Connell, University of Southern Mississippi
Kathy Yadrick, University of Southern Mississippi
Agnes Hinton, University of Southern Mississippi
Joseph Su, Louisiana State University Medical Center
Food insecurity and hunger have been the targets of federal food assistance programs since the Great Depression of the 1930s . John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign drew widespread attention to the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the midst of a wealthy nation. However, efforts to document the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger in the United States were hindered during the 1970s and '80s by a lack of understanding of hunger issues in industrialized nations. Reports of increasing use of emergency food assistance by families became more common in the mid-1980s, and efforts to define hunger and develop a reliable measure of its occurrence accelerated.
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.