Food Stamps:

Examination of Program Data and Analysis of Nonparticipation

PEMD-88-21: Published: Jul 5, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 5, 1988.

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Michael J. Wargo
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Food and Nutrition Service's (FNS) data on its Food Stamp Program to determine: (1) the current level of operations in recent years; and (2) state variations in application, participation, and termination counts and rates. GAO also reviewed published studies regarding reasons for nonparticipation in the Food Stamp Program.

GAO found that: (1) reporting variations among states and data quality problems prohibited accurate analyses and estimation of the numbers of applications and terminations under the program; (2) monthly household participation increased from 5.6 million in 1979 to 7.9 million in 1982 and then gradually declined to 7.2 million in 1986; and (3) data quality problems precluded meaningful analysis of variations among or within states of application, participation, and termination rates. GAO also found that available research studies on program nonparticipation: (1) did not base participation rates on FNS data; (2) contained fairly old data; and (3) cited lack of knowledge and program administrative procedures as major impediments to program participation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct FNS to estimate the number of people eligible for the Food Stamp Program for 1 month during each year and to determine the monthly termination rates for 1 month during each year from state case files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture


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