Practice Areas

Food and Nutrition

Insight conducts research and evaluation and provides technical assistance to improve the effectiveness of food and nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meal programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Featured Projects

  • Innovative Strategies for Reducing Hunger and Food Insecurity

    Our research examines and tests new strategies to reduce hunger and improve food security of low-income and hard-to-reach families.

    Evaluating Enhanced Summer Food Service Programs

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    Evaluating Enhanced Summer Food Service Programs

    Insight led an evaluation of demonstration projects aimed at preventing food insecurity and hunger among children during the summer months. The demonstrations tested methods of increasing access to meals by providing transportation to summer meal sites for those living in rural areas and distributing backpacks containing meals to be eaten on the weekends.

    Using Community-Based Organizations to Reach Vulnerable Populations

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    Using Community-Based Organizations to Reach Vulnerable Populations

    Insight evaluated the effectiveness of using community-based organizations to improve program access and reduce food insecurity among hard-to-reach populations—such as homeless or older Americans or those living in rural areas—by providing SNAP application assistance and eligibility interviews for these vulnerable groups.

    Direct Certification for School Meals Programs

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    Direct Certification for School Meals Programs

    Insight evaluated efforts to certify students directly for free school meals if they are enrolled in Medicaid and are income eligible based on Medicaid data. Direct certification is expected to expand access to free meals and decrease the burden of the certification process on families and school districts.

  • Improving Access to Healthy Foods

    Insight conducts research and analysis to help ensure all low-income Americans have access to a healthy diet, whether at home or at school.

    Barriers That Limit Access to a Healthy Diet

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    Barriers That Limit Access to a Healthy Diet

    Insight is identifying the individual, household, and environmental barriers that limit SNAP participants’ access to a healthy diet and examining how these barriers vary by household demographics, economic characteristics, and geography.

    Food Deserts and SNAP Households Residing in Them

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    Food Deserts and SNAP Households Residing in Them

    Insight assessed the feasibility of using geographic information system tools to catalog SNAP households in areas with limited access to healthy foods—known as food deserts—and recommended a plan for a pilot study of a food desert catalog.

    Evaluation and Review of Federal Meal Programs

    Insight staff collected and analyzed meal program data in more than 30 states to inform strategic planning, training, and quality reviews of federal meal programs across hundreds of local offices throughout the United States.

  • Strengthening Program Integrity

    Many of our projects help ensure that only eligible individuals receive benefits and that scarce resources are not wasted through error or abuse.

    Enhancing Completion Rates for SNAP Quality Control Reviews

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    Enhancing Completion Rates for SNAP Quality Control Reviews

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) usesSNAP Quality Control (QC) reviews to track and measure errors in eligibility and benefit determination for the program. Insight studied SNAP QC completion rates to identify factors contributing to incomplete reviews and best practices associated with high rates of completion.

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    WIC Food Package Costs and Cost Containment

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    WIC Food Package Costs and Cost Containment

    To ensure the best use of available funds, WIC state agencies implement measures to reduce the cost of prescribed food packages. Insight is conducting research to help FNS better understand the cost containment strategies state agencies use and to identify best practices for containing costs with little or no adverse effects on program outcomes.

    Determining the Extent of SNAP Trafficking

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    Determining the Extent of SNAP Trafficking

    Part of monitoring SNAP’s integrity is determining how much trafficking—that is, exchange of SNAP benefits for cash—occurs through retailers. Insight convened a technical working group at FNS to explore improved methods for generating national estimates of SNAP retailer trafficking and the feasibility of generating state or local estimates.

    Feasibility of Improved Estimates of SNAP Trafficking

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    Feasibility of Improved Estimates of SNAP Trafficking

    Insight assessed the feasibility of using a nationally representative probability sample of SNAP-authorized retailers to calculate improved trafficking estimates for the United States overall and within store type.

  • Enhancing Business Processes and Performance at State and Local Levels

    Our technical assistance and training services improve the business processes of state and local nutrition assistance programs to enhance service delivery and performance.

    SNAP Technical Assistance and Training

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    SNAP Technical Assistance and Training

    Insight is providing technical assistance and training to state agencies to improve internal business processes and performance, including improved application processing time and accuracy and timeliness of case actions.

    Evaluation for SNAP-NSLP Direct Certification

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    Evaluation for SNAP-NSLP Direct Certification

    Insight led efforts to identify best practices and lessons learned in meeting federal benchmarks for directly certifying SNAP and school meal program applicants.

  • Supporting Program Management and Policy Decisions

    Insight specializes in collecting and analyzing data to inform policy decisions and support program management of food assistance programs.

    WIC Participant and Program Characteristics

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    WIC Participant and Program Characteristics

    Insight is supporting the management, evaluation, and improvement of WIC by collecting administrative data and producing reports on the demographic, income, and nutritional risk characteristics of WIC participants, as well as breastfeeding initiation and duration, and food packages.

    WIC Food Packages Policy Options Study

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    WIC Food Packages Policy Options Study

    Insight extracted and synthesized data from administrative documents on the food packages and policy options selected by each WIC state agency in FY 2015. The analysis informed FNS’s review of the Final Rule on food packages, including similarities, differences, and changes in food packages and policy options across state agencies.

    Characteristics and Circumstances of Zero-Income SNAP Households

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    Characteristics and Circumstances of Zero-Income SNAP Households

    Insight examined the characteristics, participation dynamics, and spending patterns of zero-income SNAP households to explain the substantial increase in the proportion of these households in the SNAP caseload and how these families meet their nutritional needs.

    The Use of Microsimulation in SNAP Policy Analysis

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    The Use of Microsimulation in SNAP Policy Analysis

    Insight is conducting quick-response and ad hoc analyses of emerging SNAP policy issues to develop and analyze SNAP QC data to study the SNAP population.