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Spotlight On: Food and Nutrition

food and nutrition

Access to nutritious food is important for reducing health risks and improving lifelong health outcomes. However, like many of the other social determinants of health, nutritious food isn’t available or accessible for many underserved communities and families. Abt Global evaluates nutrition programs to help determine which ones improve the availability of, access to, and consumption of nutritious food.



Abt uses a variety of approaches to evaluate U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food and nutrition programs from many perspectives. Abt’s researchers are skilled in community and stakeholder engagement and learn from those on the ground. We use process and implementation evaluation methods, such as guided interviews, to compile data and translate the information into best practices to share invaluable knowledge to promote child nutrition. Data analysis and spatial analysis give a quantitative viewpoint of the impact these programs have on participants’ lives.

evaluating summer nutrition

Relevant Expertise

Evaluating Summer Nutrition Assistance for Children
Client: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) pilots have operated since 2011 to provide grocery assistance in the summer to households with children eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. With funding from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Abt evaluated the implementation and use of the Summer EBT Programs in the years 2011-2014, 2015-2018, and 2019-2022. The evaluations paved the way for Congress to pass legislation creating a permanent national program to be rolled out in 2024 that can benefit about 29 million families, some with multiple children eligible for subsidized school lunches. The evaluations, which showed the program reduced food insecurity and increased the nutritional value of diets, improved the understanding of differences in benefit use by participants. That knowledge can inform how states, territories, and tribal organizations can meet families’ needs as they tailor their Summer EBT programs.

e-star training

Evaluation of the Team Nutrition E-STAR Training
Client: USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

The Team Nutrition Training Grant e-STAR Evaluation is a 4.5-year study that will address FNS’s need to understand the implementation of the Enhanced Strategies, Training, Action Plans, and Resources (e-STAR) Training Grant program. Abt is conducting a process evaluation of how the e-STAR training is implemented and experienced by school nutrition managers (SNMs) and their mentors. Abt is also providing evaluation technical assistance to support a grantee in developing research questions and a study design. In addition, the Abt team is evaluating school-based interventions carried out by the trained SNMs. The project's findings will inform program improvement and facilitate scaling the e-STAR program to other states.


Evaluation of Technology Modernization for SNAP Benefit Redemption through Online Transactions
Client: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Abt conducted an evaluation for FNS to examine online purchasing by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants in six pilot states. FNS launched the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Online Purchasing Pilot in 2019 to allow SNAP benefits to be used online for eligible purchases at participating retailers. The evaluation identified patterns in SNAP Online participation, identified hotspots, and analyzed fulfillment methods. The evaluation also suggested areas for future research such as rural vs. urban participation in online purchases and potentially different participation rates based on geography or population cohorts. A key goal of the SNAP technology modernization is to increase eligible households’ participation in the program.

Calculating Utilization Rates for Washington D.C.

Calculating Utilization Rates for Washington D.C. Safety Net Programs to Boost Usage
Client: Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB)

In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) identified dramatic increases in food insecurity and inequity among its clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite expansion of social safety net programs, CAFB documented lower use of these programs among newly food-insecure households. To reduce barriers to use of the safety net, CAFB seeks to understand local utilization trends for five programs: SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Medicaid; and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Under a contract with CAFB, Abt will review methods for calculating utilization rates, collect data from local jurisdictions, and develop an interactive, updatable data dashboard in Tableau to show program utilization rates across jurisdictions and over time. The study will provide CAFB a better understanding of gaps in service delivery that can inform development of pilot interventions to increase utilization.

ground truthing

“Ground Truthing” the Market Basket Used in Developing the Thrifty Food Plan
Client: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Abt will assess whether the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), a flat fee used in the contiguous 48 states, is a feasible approach for purchasing food from retailers in different geographic locations. The goal of the TFP market-based menu approach is to provide the cost of what a budget-conscious family of four needs to prepare healthy meals that meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (DGAs). Abt will use nutrition experts who understand the DGAs to test whether the flat fee is feasible to get healthy meals in urban, suburban, and rural areas in multiple regions of the U.S. This study will help determine if the TFP covers realistic quantities and actual prices of foods and beverages that families in different regions buy.

restricting snap

Designing a Pilot to Measure the Impact of Restricting SNAP Purchases
Client: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Abt will design a comprehensive demonstration evaluation for measuring the impact of restricting the use of SNAP benefits to buy certain less healthy food items. The demonstration also will evaluate incentives to compensate for the loss of consumer choice and nutrition education to promote healthier choices. This study will help FNS understand the requirements for implementing and evaluating SNAP food purchase restrictions and prepare USDA if a demonstration is funded in the future.

child and adult care

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Emergency Shelters Census 2023
Client: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a food program that helps emergency shelters serve healthy meals to children and young people experiencing homelessness. CACFP meals help ensure equitable access to nutritious food for better health. Abt will conduct a survey to gather data on a) the breadth of services that emergency shelters enrolled in the CACFP provide, b) how the CACFP fits into their operations, and c) the regulatory environments in which emergency shelters operate.

Contact Us

rene nutter

René Nutter

USDA Account Lead

US Domestic, Food & Nutrition
(617) 520-2329

Vesna Petrin

Vesna Petrin

Associate, Environmental Policy and Governance

US Domestic, Health & Environment
(301) 347-5591

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