Does School Lunch Fill the "SNAP Gap" at the End of the Month?

Agustina Laurito, Amy Ellen Schwartz

Bibliographic Information

NBER Working Paper No. 25486
Issued in January 2019
NBER Program(s):CH

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This paper examines the relationship between the timing of SNAP benefit payments and participation in school lunch and breakfast using the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS). An event study approach examines participation over the five-day window before and after the SNAP payment. We find that school lunch participation decreases 17 to 23 percentage points immediately after the SNAP payment among 11-18 year olds while breakfast drops 19 to 36 percentage points. The decline begins the day prior to payment. We find no effects for 5-10 year olds. Models examining participation over the full SNAP month using individual fixed effects yield similar findings. Among teenagers, participation in school lunch and breakfast decline in the first two weeks of the SNAP month, increasing afterwards. Non-school meals show the opposite pattern. Overall, results indicate SNAP households rely more on school lunch and breakfast toward the end of the SNAP month. Adolescents substitute away from school meals to non-subsidized meal options earlier in the SNAP benefit cycle.

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