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Food Economy

Is Food the Key to This Small Pennsylvania Town’s Economic Revival?

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Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

Lincoln Avenue slices Bellevue down its belly, the only break in the borough’s neat rows of Queen Annes, Colonial Revivals and Craftsmans.

Crystal Bradley writes while waiting for friends at the Cyclops Cafe on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

The town climbs a hillside along the Ohio River, just six miles north of Pittsburgh. During a 90-year stretch, beginning with the streetcar boom of the 1890s and ending with the decline of steel in the 1980s, the avenue offered residents every shop and service they could ever need in a tightly packed, half-mile stretch. Markets and movie theaters. Bakeries and dress boutiques. Isaly’s and ice cream.

But by 2013, when Judy McAuley opened the Happy Baby Company, a children’s boutique, in the avenue’s 500 block, the Bellevue boom had long ago busted. The stately single family homes had been chopped into apartments, and Lincoln Avenue’s quaint shopping district had been overrun by pizza shops, dentist offices and insurance companies.  

Like many Ohio River towns, Bellevue’s economic decline resulted in higher taxes and a dwindling population. Its current population of 8,300 is about half of what it was at the peak 60 years ago.   

Despite the borough’s challenges and the nation’s tough retail climate, McAuley reluctantly renewed the lease on her downtown property last summer.

“I’ve been feeling like Bellevue’s been improving, not declining,” McAuley said.

Executive Chef Jamie Sola preps food in the kitchen of the Revival Grill on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

And she’s hopeful that two new restaurants, the upscale Revival on Lincoln and the more relaxed Lincoln Avenue Brewery, will serve as the catalysts for revitalization, transforming the dilapidated downtown into a destination.

It’s happened in other Pittsburgh neighborhoods, to varying degrees and acclaim, over the past decade. The food-driven renaissance in East Liberty and Lawrenceville led to Zagat naming Pittsburgh the country’s No. 1 food city in 2015. But it also drove home values so high that many residents were priced out. In Braddock on Pittsburgh’s southeast side, the poverty rate still hovers around 30 percent and many residents remain food insecure despite the neighborhood being home to Superior Motors, one of Food & Wine’s 2018 Restaurants of the Year.

Bellevue’s location—a quick, 15-minute drive from Pittsburgh—affordability and walkability make it ripe for a resurgence. But right now, the town is still living in the gap between “better than it was” and “not yet all it could be,” leaving residents and business owners like McAuley wondering whether this future built on a foundation of food is a recipe for success or disaster.  

“We’re in ‘go big or go home’ mode now,” McAuley said. “I’m trying really hard to stick it out and see what these restaurants do for foot traffic. It’s really hard to think about closing when you look at all the cool stuff happening around us.”

New in Town

Amy and Joel Haldeman moved to Bellevue eight years ago, lured by the borough’s pedestrian-friendly layout and downtown business district. They soon found, though they loved their meandering strolls down tree-lined streets, their arrival at the business district was underwhelming.

“How do you say dead without saying dead?” Joel Haldeman asked.

They decided they wanted to be part of the solution. So they bought a property at the corner of Lincoln and Hawley avenues and partnered with their friends, lifelong Bellevue residents Lisa and Grant Saylor, to launch Lincoln Avenue Brewery, a cozy and slightly industrial hangout for Bellevue’s beer connoisseurs. In a nod to the town’s growing number of homebrewers, the brewery will also offer a program for some of the best locals to scale up their operations and offer their product on tap. It’s slated to open this winter.

The exterior of the soon-to-open Lincoln Avenue Brewery on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

Bringing a brewery to Bellevue once would have been impossible. The town only lifted its ban on alcohol in 2015, eight decades after the end of prohibition.

A flatbread pizza from the Revival Grill on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

Grant Saylor, who also sits on borough council and the community development corporation board, was an early advocate for alcohol after watching several Lincoln Avenue restaurants—including Pizzeria Regina Margherita and Vivo—flee the borough for wet towns with better foot traffic.

“A good business district should have a certain percentage of its storefronts occupied by restaurants,” Saylor said. “We were very skewed the opposite way. Part of that was driven by the fact that Bellevue was a dry community.”

Several blocks north at Revival on Lincoln—a high-end eatery located in a turn-of-the-century, former funeral home—co-owner Chris Driscoll says his restaurant wouldn’t exist if Bellevue hadn’t lifted the ban.

“You can’t open a restaurant like this without a liquor license,” Driscoll said. “There’s no way any of this works without it.”

Driscoll and co-owner, former chef John King, opened Revival on Lincoln in early November. In a nod to Bellevue’s heyday, and in keeping with the Classical Revival-style of the historic building, they left the floor plan and details virtually untouched. The open foyer, hardwood floors and stained-glass windows are all original, and the building is set to be added to the National Register of Historic Places next year.

The Revival Grill on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

Patrons have already traveled from outlying Pittsburgh suburbs like Sewickley and the South Hills to get a glimpse of the interior and try Chef Jamie Sola’s take on shrimp & grits and fried bologna & cheese. Driscoll always envisioned Revival as a destination restaurant—there’s only one other high-end restaurant between Sewickley and downtown Pittsburgh after all—so he’s pleased with the diverse clientele, but he also knows his restaurant resides in an economically depressed town.

Owner Chris Driscoll in the dining room of the Revival Grill on Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

“We made it a point to keep our price point affordable,” Driscoll said.

Entrees are priced between $13 and $34; brunch plates go for $11 to $25. That’s lower than Pittsburgh’s top restaurants, but still out of range for many residents who are used to frequenting Lincoln Avenue stalwarts like Joe’s Rusty Nail, where $12 gets you a stuffed chicken breast, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, a house salad and a bread basket.

Sustainable Growth

Shortly after taking office in May 2018, Bellevue Mayor Emily Marburger created the Sustainable Growth and Inclusiveness Committee, a group of active community members who are thrilled with Bellevue’s sudden foodie status, but want to ensure responsible growth.

Lincoln Avenue Brewery and Revival on Lincoln aren’t the only newcomers to Lincoln Avenue. Grille 565, located across the street from the Happy Baby Company, bought the town’s first liquor license, and 202 Hometown Tacos is scheduled to open near Revival in December.

“Bellevue is on the cusp, and I do believe that the new restaurants will thrive here,” Marburger said. “But there is still so much food insecurity in Bellevue. I don’t want socio-economic barriers to prevent people from eating in those restaurants.”

Case in point: The Center of Bellevue ministry center, located across the street from Lincoln Avenue Brewery, offers a free meal to residents every Monday. The last time Marburger attended, hundreds showed up.

Another ministry, The Shepherd’s Door, provides a backpack full of free snacks and meals to children every Friday so they don’t go hungry through the weekend. More than 55 percent of students at the Northgate School District, which serves Bellevue and neighboring Avalon, are eligible for free or reduced school lunches.

A woman and child cross Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, PA on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. Photo: David Smith/100 Days in Appalachia

Marburger is also conscious of rising property values. About 60 percent of Bellevue residents are renters, and it’s not unusual to find a decent place for $500 per month. But Marburger worries that could change as restaurants thrive, spurring developers to purchase older apartment buildings, completely renovate them and hike prices.

When Amy and Joel Haldeman bought the brewery building, they also inherited five upper-floor apartments. Though their building renovations justified a price increase, they purposefully kept rent stagnant.

“It’s such a hard and complicated issue,” Amy Haldeman said. “There’s the part where you want to see values and prices increase, then there’s the other part where you really have to care about people.”

Marburger has fewer concerns about home ownership. Though housing values have risen about 7 percent in the past year, the prices are surprisingly affordable considering Bellevue’s walkability and proximity to Pittsburgh. The median home price is still an affordable $135,000, compared to $171,000 in Pennsylvania, leaving room for growth without inciting a housing crisis.

“No one’s aiming to be Lawrenceville,” Driscoll said, alluding to the Pittsburgh suburb’s skyrocketing real estate prices, driven, largely, by the influx of top-tier restaurants.

“I want to do my part to make Bellevue as good as it can possibly be. It’s a good place, and I think it could be a great place. A lot of the elements are there. I think [Revival on Lincoln] could help spark something.”

Lincoln Avenue Brewery’s Lisa Saylor has the same aspirations.

“Bellevue is home and, when you love your home, you want to improve it,” she said. “I want to bring back the vibrancy we all know used to be here.”

April Johnston is an award-winning freelance writer and podcaster based in Pittsburgh. Contact her through her sites apriljohnston.net and nebbypittsburgh.com

Food Economy

How A Proposed SNAP Eligibility Revision Could Affect Central Appalachia

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This article was originally published by the Ohio Valley ReSource.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week a proposal to tighten the rules on who qualifies for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

USDA estimates more than three million people across the country would lose SNAP benefits in an effort to prevent fraud.

Anti-hunger advocates in the Ohio Valley say the more than two million people in the region who use the benefits would be impacted.

The department wants to change what they call “broad-based categorical eligibility” in the SNAP program. The regulation allows people that don’t have a low enough income to qualify for food stamps to get them in other ways. For example, people can also qualify if they receive assistance from other federal programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

“Eighty-nine percent of the people that we serve are what we refer to as working, poor families,” said Facing Hunger Food Bank Executive Director Cynthia Kirkhart. “So those are folks that are working one or more jobs to try to make a living. And those families usually have children.”

Kirkhart said her food bank in Huntington, West Virginia serves 116,000 people across 17 counties in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Most of the people she serves get food stamps through categorical eligibility. She said these families often use the money they save on food because of SNAP to build emergency savings or pay other bills. 

The USDA argues that by tightening SNAP eligibility rules, the department can save billions of dollars by preventing abuses of the program. The department pointed to an example of a wealthy Minnesota man who claims he collected thousands of dollars in food stamps. 

But Kirkhart said without the current rules, she sees some in the Ohio Valley may lose that extra support. 

“The resources they may receive otherwise — pay compensation or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — more of that goes to buy food,” Kirkhart said. “They can’t pay for rent or utilities, or fuel for their cars to get to their jobs.”

If individuals can’t get food stamps through categorical eligibility, then the traditional way to determine food stamp eligibility is through figuring out whether their gross income, along with combined assets like a car, is low enough to qualify. And that can take time to figure out.

“When I was a case worker before broad-based categorical eligibility… I would spend a lot of energy having my applicants go to the bank and prove that they had 42 dollars in the bank,” said Jason Dunn, a policy analyst with the advocacy group Kentucky Voices For Health.

Dunn is a former director of the Kentucky Division of Family Support, an agency that helps manages SNAP eligibility in the state. He said it can take a significant amount of time to determine if gross income is low enough to qualify, and that categorical eligibility speeds up this process.

With the potential of tighter rules, more people wouldn’t automatically qualify for SNAP and have to go through this “asset test”. Dunn said this could create a backlog of cases that could ultimately increase the wait time for people who need SNAP.

“When you add that for hundreds of thousands of cases, it really adds up in time and effort on the state’s part,” Dunn said. 

State agencies in the Ohio Valley don’t yet know exactly how many people could be affected by this proposal. Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia combined have 2,221,188 people signed up for SNAP benefits as of April 2019, according to USDA data. And a report last year by Daily Yonder, an online news outlet that focuses on rural issues, showed rural counties — including in central Appalachia — are more reliant on SNAP. 

“Probably disproportionately [people in Appalachia] would be more impacted than in urban areas because of the concentration of SNAP recipients,” said Ohio Association of Foodbanks Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt. 

Hamler-Fugitt said grocery stores in rural areas that would otherwise be food deserts depend on money from food stamp sales. She said if fewer people are eligible for food stamps, these stores could see less revenue. 

“When SNAP comes under attack and results in people being unable to receive a modest benefit and to be able to stand in grocery store check-out lines, then what happens is that those retailers that rely on not only cash sales but SNAP sales are very vulnerable,” Hamler-Fugitt said. “And many of them, if you know anything about the grocery industry, they operate on very slim margins. What we’re at risk of is losing even more full-service grocery stores.”

Hamler-Fugitt said that could impact people beyond those who use SNAP benefits. 

The proposed rule is open for public comments for two months. 

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Food Economy

Recession’s Impact Lingers for Food-Insecure Rural Seniors

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Courtesy of MANNA Foodbank

“Despite an improving economy and financial markets, millions of seniors in the United States are going without enough food due to economic constraints,” says a new study on hunger among senior citizens.

Betsy, a food bank recipient in rural Kentucky, never expected to need handouts of food.

For nearly 35 years, she had a good job making decent money. But now, at age 51, she suffers from health problems and often has to decide between buying food or medicine. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This story uses the first names of food-pantry recipients to protect their privacy.)

Decisions like those are part of the reason senior citizens in rural America are facing food insecurity, a new study shows. In fact, one in five rural seniors has difficulties getting enough to eat.

According to Dr. James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research and the co-author of the study, nearly 30 percent of senior citizens living below the poverty line are food insecure, or concerned they won’t have anything to eat. About half of those seniors, defined as 60 years and older, have very low food security, meaning they frequently worry about access to food.

Of the top 10 states for food insecurity in seniors, nine of them are in the Southeast.

The study shows that while the economy has recovered since the Great Recession, it hasn’t recovered as quickly for those in rural areas. Lack of jobs, lack of access to food and lack of income are hampering seniors’ ability to rest assured that they will have food when they want it, Ziliak says.

“Despite an improving economy and financial markets, millions of seniors in the United States are going without enough food due to economic constraints,” Ziliak said in the study. “This stubbornly high proportion of food-insecure seniors continues to impose a major health care challenge in the U.S. One group of practical concern is those seniors experiencing VLFS (Very Low Food Security), the ranks of which have especially swelled since 2001.”

Tamara Sandberg

In Kentucky, where Betsy lives, food insecurity rates are also elevated for middle-aged residents. Nearly 20 percent of Kentucky adults in their 50s are food insecure – compared to 11.3 percent nationwide. Kentuckians over the age of 60 have a higher rate of food insecurity regardless of their income – 8.4 percent of them are hungry, compared to 7.7 percent across the country.

“Too many older adults and senior citizens in Kentucky are struggling to put food on the table after decades of hard work,” said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of Feeding Kentucky, a network of food banks that serve all of the state’s 120 counties. “They are faced with agonizing choices such as paying for food or paying for medicine.”

Limited Income, Hard Choices

Betsy has had to make just those choices.

As a child, Betsy began working at age 9, babysitting to save up for the name brand clothes she wanted. As an adult, she worked as a lab technician in Florida. But when her mother got sick, she returned to Morehead, in the coalfields of northeast Kentucky. She continued to work and returned to her Florida job after her mother died.

“I’ve worked all my life,” she said. “There wasn’t a time I wasn’t working up until I had to file for disability.”

After moving back to Florida, Betsy was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Manageable at first, she thought she could continue to work while going through treatment. Then the doctors had to take out a kidney. Later, she was placed on dialysis. The treatments left her unable to work. In response, she moved back to the small town of Morehead, population 6,897, so she could be closer to the support of her family.

Her disability checks and government housing leave her with little money for luxuries. Betsy lives on a little over $900 a month, $100 of which goes to prescriptions. Government housing costs about $143. The rest goes to bills first and food second.

Her son, a 31-year-old living and working in a nearby factory, struggles to make ends meet too, she said.

“He needs to worry about himself,” she said. “He needs to get a new vehicle. The one he has now has issues. He needs to take care of himself first.”

Even though she has an income, she still can face dark times, she said.

“I remember one year a few days before Christmas, I had $2 in my checking account,” she said. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay for any food. I didn’t know where our Christmas dinner was coming from, or what I was going to do about Christmas.”

In that circumstance, a check from her landlord, where she had overpaid her rent for a year, helped to smooth out the difficulties. Most times, she’s not so lucky. Betsy gets food from the food bank once every three months but volunteers there almost daily.

“I don’t eat much,” she said. “So I don’t need to go and get as much food. I figure others probably need it more than me.”

Ziliak’s study found that seniors in rural areas are statistically more likely to be hungry if they are divorced, widowed or separated; if they are sick, disabled or unemployed, and if they are renters.

The study, he said, points not only to the lag in the economic recovery seen in rural America, but also the lack of access to food and resources for seniors in rural areas.

“Our studies have shown that those who are 50 and above were, like the rest of the country, dramatically affected by the Great Recession,” Ziliak said. “But what we’re seeing is that those groups in non-metro areas did not recover like the rest of the population… Non-metro areas have lower incomes generally than metro areas… and it took a long time for the economy to recover for those in the lower income stratus.”

Another cause for food insecurity may be that there just isn’t a way for seniors to get to the food and resources, Ziliak said.

“In non-metro areas, there are fewer outlets that are in reasonable proximity to the full bevy of fruits and vegetables that one needs,” he said.

One Problem away from Hunger

Michael Halligan, CEO of God’s Pantry, a Lexington-based food bank that supplies pantries in Rowan County and other locations, said sometimes one twist of fate can be costly for those in rural areas:

“It’s a different economic reality today than others had to deal with. Put yourself in a situation where you live 30 to 45 minutes away from a grocery store. And imagine being 50 to 59 and losing your job thanks to a downturn in the economy. All of a sudden after 20 or 30 years, you don’t have a job, which means you don’t have a commute so you can’t stop at the store on your way home from work. You don’t have an income, so you have to think about the gas it takes to drive into town. The hardships become very complicated very quickly. … Many people are just one unfortunate or one unexpected incident away from food insecurity. The vast majority of individuals who are food insecure are working to stretch their budget as best as they can.”

For 53-year-old Joe, worrying about food is a daily concern. He, his 22-year-old wife and their 18-month old daughter, as well as a 17-year-old son from a previous marriage, all live together in government housing. All told, they live on less than $1,500 a month, he said.

“For people who don’t understand what it’s like, they should take a box of macaroni and cheese, a pound of hamburger and a pack of hot dogs and use that to feed a family of four for a day,” he said. “It’s a constant struggle. I think about it every day.”

Joe grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and was working in a factory making $27 per hour when the factory closed.

Divorced with three kids, he was ordered by the court to pay $800 in support each month. To make it, he drove with a friend to Indiana to find work. There he met his second wife and moved with her to Morehead to be closer to her family. Within a few years, they had three children. Not long after the birth of their third child, his wife died of breast cancer.

Through it all, Joe worked. He worked as a custodian at nearby Morehead University and at a local school. He worked as a cashier at various places. He worked doing what he could, making what he could.

But finding jobs in a small town presents its own challenges.

“It’s such a small town,” he said. “Unless you have family and friends here to support you, it’s tough to get a job.”

Getting a job is complicated by the fact Joe doesn’t have a driver’s license. In Arizona, he said, the state suspends your license if you fall behind on child support.

Joe owes the state of Arizona more than $165,000 in child and spousal support — an amount that he has owed for more than a decade even though his children are grown and living in Michigan.

“How am I supposed to fight that?” he said. “I’d have to go there and go to court. And every attorney I’ve ever talked to said they need $5,000 just to look at my case… I’ll never drive again. It’s hard to find a job that you can get to around here if you can’t drive.”

Now he and his current wife feed their small family on $234 per month in food stamps. That money is supplemented by food they get at food banks in the area.

“People talk a lot about the last time they went out to eat and what they had,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time we went out to eat. A big treat for us is a four pack of Totino’s pizza. That’s what eating on $234 a month looks like.”

Caring for Others as Well

For some seniors, taking care of their grandchildren means added expenses and gnawing concerns. People over 60 with children living with them are almost twice as likely to have food insecurity, the study found.

Mary, another Christian Outreach Services food bank participant, cares for her 17-year-old daughter and her 12-year-old grandson. For her, summers are hard because they mean breakfasts and lunches for the kids who would normally eat via free and reduced lunch programs at school.

“I know a lot of people in the area who are raising their kids and grandkids,” Mary said. “I pay bills and then I buy food. I’m always trying to save all I can. I try to stretch every dollar. My ex-husband died three years ago of a heart attack and I get his Social Security. And we get money for my grandson and money for my daughter.”

While Mary manages her household on around $1,200 a month, there’s not much left after car payments, insurance, loans and utility payments, she said.

Michael Halligan

Another factor, Halligan said, is the culture surrounding asking for help.

Senior citizens, he said, are less likely to take advantage of assistance because they come from a generation that doesn’t ask for help. In rural areas, that pride can be just as strong if not stronger than in metropolitan areas. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Senior’s Farmers Market Program may some help for seniors, but many don’t know about the programs or are disinclined to use them, he said.

“Senior citizen participation is under-indexed when it comes to the SNAP program,” he said. “I think we need to make those who are vulnerable more aware of the programs and get them signed up.”

For Halligan, the issue of food insecurity is one that policymakers need to be thinking about now.

“I think we need to really think through how we’re going to take care of folks as our society ages,” he said. “It’s great to say people need a larger nest egg to live on, but how do we ensure people are stable? How do we get services to where people live rather than where they aren’t? I think we really need to envision and reimagine solutions to the problems that I see as indicators of increased risk for all seniors.”

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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Food Economy

Study Links SNAP Spending to Job Creation

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The Trump administration is proposing big changes in the SNAP (a.k.a. food stamps) program. Some participants would receive foods directly, instead of purchasing them in local groceries. Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Increased food-assistance spending that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus package helped increase employment at the peak of the Great Recession, especially in rural areas, a first-of-its-kind study says.

During the peak and immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, nonmetropolitan counties gained one job for every $10,000 in increased SNAP redemptions, said the study, which was conducted by USDA Economic Research Service.

The economic impact in metropolitan areas was measurable but not as great. Metropolitan counties saw an increase of 0.4 jobs for every $10,000 in additional SNAP redemptions during the height of the recession, according to the study.

Counties in gray lack sufficient data for analysis.
Map: Daily Yonder/USDA ERS data. Source: USDA Economic Research Food Environment Atlas 2012Service  Get the data  Created with Datawrapper. Expand Map to Full Page

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allotted an additional $40 billion in total SNAP benefits for low-income Americans from 2009 to 2013. The increase was enough to give each recipient an extra 13 percent in benefits. Part of the rationale for including increased SNAP benefits in the stimulus package was that the program would help both SNAP families and the greater economy, which would benefit from an infusion of cash-like benefits.

Previous studies have predicted that’s what happens with increased SNAP benefits. The ERS study is the first to confirm that prediction using historical economic data after the fact.

The study is also the first to look at the county-level impact of SNAP expenditures, giving economists a way to compare the economic impact in metropolitan vs. nonmetropolitan areas.

As expected, the economic impact was greater in rural areas, because the poverty rate is higher and a greater percentage of families participate in SNAP in nonmetropolitan counties.

The study controlled for other federal transfer payments, meaning the increase in employment is related to SNAP payments exclusively, not to other forms of government funding that went to individuals during the study period.

As expected, the economic impact of SNAP redemptions was less before and after the Great Recession of 2018.

The study examined three time periods – before the recession (2001-07), the recession and its immediate aftermath (2008-10), and post-recession (2011-14). Both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties saw statistically significant numbers of jobs created during the recession and its aftermath.

SNAP redemptions grew rapidly after passage of the 2009 stimulus package and peaked in 2011-12.

Surprisingly, while pre-recession SNAP reimbursement correlated with job-creation in nonmetro counties, in metro counties before the recession, SNAP had the opposite impact. Metro counties had a 0.2 job reduction for every $10,000 in SNAP redemptions. Researchers said that finding “is not robust” and needs further investigation.

“The main findings … — that SNAP redemptions have a positive and statistically significant impact on county-level employment, that these impacts were larger during the Great Recession than before or after it, and that the impacts were larger in nonmetro than metro counties – are robust across the models estimated,” the study stated.

The study also found that SNAP spending has a “spillover” effect. Increased SNAP reimbursements in one county were linked to job creation in adjoining counties, as well.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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