adequacy of SNAP benefits, he supported Gundersen’s comments and noted the panel members could be objective because they were not direct contributors to the relevant research. Ziliak acknowledged other studies find the opposite effect, but it was the panel’s perspective that most well-crafted studies on this issue showed that these programs reduce the likelihood of food insecurity. Ziliak reported that the panel found that when the researcher appropriately dealt with the issues of self-selection and mismeasurement, there was substantial evidence that these programs reduce the risk of food insecurity.
Ribar responded to Ziliak’s remarks, saying that the panel reviewed numerous studies that had mixed results, pointing to the methodological challenges with this area of research. He reiterated that it is difficult to argue that giving people more food does not somehow lead to better food results. Edward Frongillo (University of South Carolina) asked Ribar whether the result that “children go hungry less” was a logical consequence of the standard rational economic model, or whether there was direct evidence. Ribar responded that it is a standard economic assumption that parents are altruistic, which leads to the within-home crowd-out effect in the theoretical model. However, he said that there are studies that have looked at coping strategies and the typical behavior is that the children do go hungry less. Frongillo noted that he would like to see citations to that research.6
Jay Hirschman (Food and Nutrition Service) noted that researchers who focus on SNAP and general food security issues may not have seen the evaluation of the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children documented in Collins et al. (2012). He noted that this analysis is the product of an $85 million appropriation from Congress to conduct demonstrations with rigorous evaluations. He said that it is a clear demonstration that very low food security for children is subject to improvement through a known form of changing benefits. In this case, the benefit was $60 per summer month for each school-aged child in the household. Weill responded that Collins et al. (2012) is a great study for SNAP benefits but a mixed study for summer food purposes. Ultimately, it is common knowledge that children are better off if they are in programs over the summer. Funneling money into the family in lieu of building programs where they can be fed meals and also get mentoring, tutoring, and activity is an artificial choice. Both are important.
6One citation discussed during the workshop was Edin et al. (2013). In her statement, Zapolsky stated that this result showed that SNAP helps parents protect children. Another reference provided by Ribar during his talk was McIntyre et al. (2003).