What is the Role of Media Narratives in Shaping Perceptions of the Food Stamp Program in America?

Raised of $3,600 Goal
Ended on 3/02/16
Campaign Ended
  • $16
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  • Finished
    on 3/02/16

About This Project

I am studying the stigma that surrounds the SNAP (Food Stamp) program and the role that media stories play in people's perceptions about the program. I am talking to SNAP program recipients, SNAP administrators across the state of South Carolina, and grocery store cashiers that transact SNAP (EBT). I am asking participants for their perspectives on media, hunger and poverty in America, and having each participant read some short SNAP media stories and then discussing the content.

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What is the context of this research?

The largest food assistance program in America is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In 2015, the program served 46 million people and cost $74 billion (http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/pd/SNA...). However, the program is controversial. Debates about the program often have more to do with underlying beliefs about individualism and deservingness than the specific function of the program to give people a way to purchase food. Media stories can disguise critiques of the poor and the role of government in assistance. Often, academic studies do not consider this context and instead focus on the economics of administering the program, measuring the effects of the program recipients' health or hunger, or program stigma of usage specifically in terms of personal experiences.

What is the significance of this project?

This project bridges the larger stories present in the media with personal experiences with a focus on the underlying ideologies that might influence opinions and perceptions about the program. Research is needed that investigates the relationship between these media stories and individuals’ interpretations of the largest food assistance program in the nation.

What are the goals of the project?

I gathered 300 media stories about the SNAP program from the last year to see how media outlets are talking about the program. Stories are from TV (Fox News, MSNBC), print (NY Times, NY Post) and Online (Huffington Post, The Daily Caller) outlets. These outlets are typically seen as aligned with liberal or conservative perspectives. The stories were analyzed for main themes. We found 4 themes: (1) cost of the program, (2) individualism, (3) nutrition, and (4) program fraud. I used these themes to create short media stories to discuss during interviews with program recipients and frontline workers about the role that media stories play in shaping their perceptions of the program. I have done 18 interviews with a goal of 30 to reach saturation of theme and produce a manuscript of findings.


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I need transcription funding for a total of 30 interviews. I have complete audio for almost 20 interviews so far and have begun transcribing but a single 1-hour long interview can take between 6 and 8 hours to transcribe verbatim. In order for my dissertation research to be completed on schedule, funding for transcription services is required.

Transcription services from Verbal Ink will be purchased for a total of 30 hours at a rate of $2.00 per minute to complete verbatim transcription of 30, 1-hour qualitative interviews.

Meet the Team

Nicholas Younginer
Nicholas Younginer
Graduate Research Assistant

Nicholas Younginer

I have had an interest in aspects of food, culture, and health since I was a child. After high school I attended Johnson and Wales University, obtaining an Associate degree in culinary arts. From Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina I moved to Columbia to attend the University of South Carolina and after three years obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in cultural anthropology. One year after graduation from my Bachelors program I enrolled in the anthropology Masters program at the University of South Carolina and received the degree two years later in cultural anthropology. My research focused on identity as it relates to an ethnic religious group in Brooklyn, New York. Though this research did not focus solely on food, it made me aware of the important role that food plays in constructing and maintaining both group and individual identity.

I enrolled in the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health PhD program intending to study the role of food in terms food pantry participation. However, over the course of my program I began to see the problem of hunger in America as more systemic and perhaps related to our underlying beliefs about the role of food and its place as a commodity more than a human right. I chose to focus on the SNAP program because of its large scale and controversial existence.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

I find it interesting that there are many governmental programs that are funded by tax dollars yet do not create such division and heated debate as the SNAP program. We do not stigmatize publicly-funded road usage or public education. Yet, judgment of a person using federal dollars to feed their family is acceptable and frighteningly common. What is it that drives this judgment and debate? Why is food different?

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