FNS Documents & Resources
This report is the latest in a series of publications presenting estimates of the percentage of eligible persons, by State, who participate in the Food Stamp Program. The participation rate – a ratio of the number of participants to the number of people eligible for benefits – is an important measure of program performance. This issue presents food stamp participation rates for States in an average month in fiscal year 2003 and for the previous fiscal year. Nationally, the participation rate among eligible persons increased from 54 percent in fiscal year 2002 to 56 percent in fiscal year 2003.
The Food Stamp Program serves as the foundation of America’s national nutrition safety net, the first line of the Nation’s defense against hunger, and a powerful tool to improve nutrition among millions of low-income families and individuals. Because the program has such a central role in the national nutrition safety net, there is keen interest in tracking its performance over time and across areas. While there are many aspects to the program’s success, one key performance outcome is the extent to which it reaches the people it is intended to serve. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and other researchers have used a variety of approaches to calculate food stamp participation rates. While different approaches can look similar in concept, the results – for particular States or for the Nation as a whole – can often look quite different. These differences can be confusing for users who seek to describe the success of the Food Stamp Program without becoming experts in statistics and data analysis. This paper provides an overview and comparison of two sets of estimates produced by FNS as indicators of Food Stamp Program performance.