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Current Data Collections

This page provides a list of all studies currently, or soon to be, collecting data. For completed studies and their results, please visit Research and Analysis. For study related questions, please contact us at FNSstudies@usda.gov.


SNAP Studies

How Have SNAP State Agencies Shifted Operations in the Aftermath of COVID?

Data Collection Year: Anticipated in 2024
Contractor: Mathematica

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early spring 2020, many SNAP state agencies had to make significant adjustments to their processes in order to process SNAP applications and issue benefits remotely. States varied in their readiness for remote work but had to adapt rapidly to the new environment. This study seeks to understand how SNAP state agencies have made permanent operational changes since the start of the pandemic and how they have built upon the innovation initiated by the pandemic. Such changes may include: equipment purchases to facilitate additional telework opportunities for employees, including eligibility workers; full-time remote employees; increased use of telephonic or electronic signatures; changes to document storage (i.e. cloud storage); and call center implementation or enhancements. Through a survey all of 53 SNAP state agencies, this study seeks to understand the changes that have occurred in operations and norms since the pandemic and how state agencies have increased their preparedness in the event of another major work disruption

Assessing SNAP Participants’ Fitness for Work

Data Collection Year: Ongoing through fall 2023
Contractor: MEF Associates

SNAP statute requires that SNAP participants between the ages of 16 and 59 register for work or be registered by the state agency, unless they receive a federal exemption. Among the exemptions include being found mentally or physically unfit for employment. States have varying ways of determining if an individual is fit for work. This study seeks to understand how states implement this provision and the challenges they face in providing good customer service to SNAP participants. The study will conduct a review of state policy and guidance related to determining whether individuals are fit for work. The study will also include interviews with SNAP eligibility workers to understand how the policy is interpreted and implemented and the challenges that arise with serving the needs of their clients.

Rapid Cycle Evaluations of Operational Improvements in SNAP E&T

Data Collection Year: Summer of 2023 through Spring of 2024
Contractor: Mathematica

This study provides funding for testing small scale improvements in state SNAP E&T programs. Examples might include improving notices to participants or developing videos to promote E&T providers. States would receive funding to improve the operations of their SNAP E&T programs and an independent evaluator would assess the effectiveness of the innovation over a short-term period, usually a few months. If warranted, a tested intervention may be adjusted based on ongoing or continual evaluation feedback to improve its effectiveness. The evaluator would also provide technical assistance to the states when developing or implementing the operational improvement.

Food Security Status and Well-Being of Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) Participants in Puerto Rico

Data Collection Year: Ongoing in 2023
Contractor: Westat Insight

The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019 (PL 116-20) provided funding to conduct an independent study in Puerto Rico to assess the impact of the additional benefits provided to participants in Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) in the wake of Hurricane Maria. This study will measure food security, health status and well-being among NAP participants at a point in time after the extra disaster benefits were provided. However, there are limitations with a retroactive analysis in attributing any causal impacts to the additional benefits.

Serving SNAP Applicants and Participants with Limited English Proficiency

Data Collection Year: Summer and Fall 2023
Contractor: Mathematica

SNAP state agencies are required to translate materials related to all aspects of program administration (e.g. applications, notices, charge letters, informational documents) into languages other than English to serve the needs of their clients with limited English proficiency (LEP). States also have the opportunity to provide LEP services through their SNAP Education and Training (E&T) programs. FNS has limited information on the breadth (i.e. which languages) and depth (i.e. what types of documents) of how state agencies serve their clients with LEP, or whether they offer LEP services through their SNAP E&T programs. This study will survey all 53 SNAP state agencies to catalog which languages state agencies offer for which types of documents and whether or not they offer LEP services through their SNAP E&T program. The study will ask states how they determine which languages should be offered and how they manage the translation process and if they offer any SNAP E&T LEP services and what services they offer if they do.

Assessment of Mobile Technologies for Using SNAP Benefits

Data Collection Year: 2024 through early 2026
Contractor: Mathematica

The Agricultural Act of 2018 authorizes the use of mobile technologies for the purpose of accessing SNAP benefits. This allows SNAP participants to input their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card into a mobile technology, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, and make SNAP purchases at the point-of-sale without the presence of the EBT card. The Act requires that FNS approve not more than five projects to pilot the use of this technology and then determine if mobile technology should be authorized nationwide. This study will assess the pilots in the areas of participant access, ease of use and program integrity to facilitate the determination of whether to broadly authorize the use of mobile technologies.

Understanding Risk Assessment in SNAP Payment Accuracy

Data Collection Year: Anticipated in 2024
Contractor: Westat Insight

SNAP state agencies develop their own algorithms to identify which cases might be a greater risk for payment error. Some states develop their methodologies in-house and others work with contractors to do this. This study would survey all 53 state agencies to understand their differing approaches to risk assessment and identify which household characteristics states associate with payment error. The study will also collect additional data from up to six states to provide a greater understanding of the best ways to approach and utilize risk assessment.

Assessing Equity in Work Requirements and SNAP Employment & Training

Data Collection Year: Anticipated in 2024
Contractor: Westat Insight

A priority of the Biden Administration is advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities throughout the federal government. In SNAP, one area that may have disparities is the execution of work requirements and access to E&T services. SNAP state agencies often do not have race or ethnicity data on SNAP participants because it is not required to determine eligibility. This study would identify what data state agencies might collect but not report to FNS and identify other potential data sources, such as SNAP E&T providers or other partner organizations, to assess whether racial or other disparities exist in the administration of work requirements or E&T services. It would assess potential data sources and identify questions about disparities that could be answered with the available data. It would also identify questions that cannot be answered with existing data and make recommendations about what data FNS should consider collecting. The study would also identify the key processes used to identify which individuals are subject to work requirements and/or referred to E&T services to assess whether or not these processes drive disparities.

Understanding the Relationship between Poverty, Well-Being and Food Security Status

Data Collection Year: Anticipated in 2024
Contractor: Mathematica

Research has shown that the economic and demographic circumstances of households are closely correlated with food security status. However, not all households with similar circumstances experience the same food security status – other factors can be important determinants. This study will identify measures of poverty and well-being associated with household food security status among SNAP eligible participants and non-participants in persistent poverty counties, defined as counties where 20 percent or more of their population lived in poverty in the last four decennial Censuses. Moving beyond household income, policy-actionable elements of well-being and material deprivation such as mental health, depression, health-related quality of life, disablement, medical expenditures, alcohol or opioid addiction, place of residence and unequal sharing of resources within the household may impact food security status and SNAP participation. This project will conduct county-level representative surveys of household food security, well-being and material hardship measures in at least six persistent-poverty counties to help identify factors other than income that impact food security status. The study will also conduct in-depth interviews with a subsample in six counties to provide additional context for the survey findings. Counties will represent a variety of spatial types (urban, suburban and rural) and other policy relevant characteristics. Collecting representative data at the county level will also enable improved estimates of county-level food security status since official data at this granular level is unavailable.

Improving Coordination between SNAP and Medicaid in State Agencies

Data Collection Year: Anticipated in 2023
Contractor: MEF Associates with the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC)

SNAP and Medicaid serve similar populations, which provides opportunities for state agencies administering the programs to coordinate policies and processes to improve efficiency, customer service and program access. This study will conduct case studies in up to five states to understand the challenges with improving program coordination and highlight the best practices that could be shared with other states.

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Child Nutrition Studies

School Meals Operations Study

Data Collection Year: ongoing, started in school year 2019-20.
Contractor: Mathematica
Status: State agency and school food authority surveys about program operations for SY 2022-23 closed in late January 2024. State agency surveys about program operations for SY 2023-24 are expected to begin in fall 2024.

School Meals Operations (SMO) is an annual survey series that collects timely data on policy, administrative and operational issues in the school-based child nutrition programs, contributing to budget preparation, development and implementation of program policy and regulations and identification of areas for technical assistance and training. When school meals were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the study was repurposed to collect information about the child nutrition programs used to feed children during the pandemic and the use and impact of the nationwide waivers of program requirements authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The first report, covering CNP Operations March – September 2020, and second report, covering July 2020 – December 2021, are available.

Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification Study IV

Anticipated Data Collection Year: school year 2023-24.
Contractor: Westat
Status: Data collection continues through June 2024.

The fourth study on Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification (APEC IV) will provide FNS with key information on the annual error rates and improper payments for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. In addition, APEC IV will identify school food authority, school and student/household characteristics that may be related to errors; test a new method of using cameras to collect meal observation data; assess the mode effect of in-person versus telephone interviews on the household survey; and evaluate the accuracy of certification decisions made using USDA’s online application prototype compared to other types of applications. A final report is expected in 2026.

National School Foods Study

Data Collection Year: School year 2024-25.
Contractor: Mathematica
Status: Pending OMB approval, recruitment of school food authorities begins in summer 2024; data collection will take place during school year 2024-25.

This will be the newest contribution to two ongoing study series (the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study and the School Food Purchase Study) that examine school meals topics such as nutritional quality of meals, meal costs, student participation, plate waste, and school food purchase practices, as well as an updated evaluation of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) and analyses specific to healthy school meals for all and CEP participation. The study will include all 50 states, Washington, DC, Guam, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. As part of this study, FNS is currently collecting sample frame data for FFVP schools.

School Food Preparation Study

Data Collection Year: 2024-25.
Contractor: Applied Curiosity Research
Status: Recruitment of school food authorities (SFAs) will begin in late spring/summer 2024.

Due to increasing interest in serving more local and scratch-cooked foods in school meals, this project help FNS understand SFA’s food preparation methods and how they incorporate fresh food preparation into their operations. Case study data will be collected from a diverse set of SFAs during school year 2024-25. Data will be collected through questionnaires, in-depth interviews, document reviews, and, in some SFAs, site visits.

Summer Forms Pilot Test

Data Collection Year: 2024
Contractor: None
Status: A pilot test of reporting requirements for summer non-congregate meal service is planned for Aug. 1, 2024 through Jan. 31, 2025.

This study uses a web-based survey to pilot test proposed changes to the Report of the Summer Food Service Program for Children (FNS-418) and the Report of School Program Operations (FNS-10) to effectively monitor the newly implemented non-congregate meal service options in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the National School Lunch Program. By participating in all 5 waves of data collection, state agencies will a) provide FNS with critical information about summer non-congregate meal service in summer 2024, b) help FNS identify issues with the new forms that may require technical assistance, and c) provide an opportunity for their data management teams to adjust to the new requirements before they are implemented. State agencies will be able to provide feedback throughout the process.

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WIC Studies

WIC Feeding My Baby Study

WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices II
Anticipated Data Collection Year: 2013-2023
Contractor: Westat

The “Feeding My Baby Study,” a longitudinal study that began data collection in fall 2013, provides a rare opportunity to examine critical policy questions about WIC and its participants. The data collection currently follows a national sample of children who began WIC participation at birth, including those who left the program, and collects 24-hour dietary recalls and data on feeding practices. The Feeding My Baby Study is currently following children through the age of 9 years, and the 9-year follow-up data collection is slated to occur in 2022-2023.

WIC Cash Value Benefit (CVB) Redemption Study

Redemption of WIC Cash Value Voucher/Cash Value Benefit (CVV/CVB)
Anticipated Data Collection Year: 2022
Contractor: Insight Policy Research

In 2009, the WIC program introduced CVV/CVB for the purchase of fruits and vegetables for participating women and children. Despite the popularity of this added benefit provided as part of the revised WIC food package, it has been underutilized. A study conducted in 3 states showed that while 73% of CVV/CVB benefits were redeemed, only about 37% were fully redeemed (Phillips, Bell, Morgan and Pooler, 2014). In 2021, Congress approved several provisions allowing USDA to temporarily increase the CVV/B amounts for certain food packages. These increased CVB amounts may reduce barriers to full utilization of the benefit. The temporary CVB increase offers a unique opportunity to test whether CVB redemption rates changed after implementation and whether certain state policy and participant-level factors impacted these rate changes. This study will identify factors associated with the under redemption of WIC CVV/CVB and possible solutions for improving redemption and utilization rates. Findings will enhance guidance to states on increasing utilization of the benefits.

WIC Nutrition Assessment and Tailoring Study (WIC NATS)

Process and Use of WIC Nutrition Risk Assessment
Anticipated Data Collection Year: 2021-2022
Contractor: Westat

Women and children enrolling in WIC undergo a nutrition risk assessment that includes the collection of dietary, anthropometric and health information. The goal of the assessment is to identify nutritional risks and enhance the service and support provided by WIC in order to improve the health and development of program participants. This project will use qualitative and quantitative methods to examine how local WIC agencies use nutrition risk assessment information to deliver program benefits, including the tailoring of food packages and nutrition education, and how the process used is associated with dietary and health outcomes, the clinic experience and retention in WIC. Data will be collected on nutrition assessments that occur in-person at a WIC clinic and those that happen remotely (e.g., by telephone). The findings of this study will be used to develop guidance for WIC staff to enhance service delivery that improves program retention and the nutrition and health of women and children who participate in WIC. Study data will also allow for comparisons between in-person and remote WIC nutrition services.

WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2022

Anticipated Data Collection Year: 2022
Contractor: Insight Policy Research

Since 1988, FNS has produced biennial reports on WIC participant and program characteristics (PC). The WIC Participant and Program Characteristics Study 2022 (WIC PC22) will summarize demographic, income and health-related characteristics and behaviors of all WIC participants in the 89 state agencies enrolled as of April of 2022 as well as the benefits they receive through WIC. WIC PC findings are used to estimate budgets, submit civil rights reporting and identify research needs. Two reports will be published from the study: the WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2020 Report and the 2022 Food Packages and Costs Report.

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Other FNS Studies

FDPIR Quick Response Survey (QRS)

Barriers for the underserved in accessing the FDPIR program
Anticipated Data Collection Year: 2022
Contractor: Ken Consulting

In 2020, Congress directed USDA to conduct a study on the challenges that the FDPIR program and other USDA food distribution programs face in reaching underserved populations, with an emphasis on the homebound and elderly. This study will conduct a Quick Response Survey (QRS) of FDPIR program operators to better understand challenges in reaching underserved individuals who are eligible for FDPIR, strategies and flexibilities employed by agencies in reaching the underserved and recommendations for program improvement. Findings from this study will be summarized in a brief for Congress.

Page updated: July 11, 2024