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Research Projects and Publications

ERS and external researchers are actively involved in rigorous research using FoodAPS data to examine food demand relationships that previously could not be investigated in detail because the requisite data did not exist. A list of published research and work in progress follows:

Published research

ERS reports

Comparing National Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) Data With Other National Food Surveys’ Data—by Dawn Marie Clay, Michele Ver Ploeg, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Howard Elitzak, Christian Gregory, David Levin, Constance Newman, and Matthew P. Rabbitt, ERS. Data from USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), the first nationally representative household survey to collect data on foods purchased or acquired during a survey week, are compared with data from other national-level, food-related surveys (July 2016).

Where Households Get Food in a Typical Week: Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS—by Jessica E. Todd and Benjamin Scharadin, ERS. Understanding where U.S. households acquire food, what they acquire, and what they pay is essential to identifying which food and nutrition policies might improve diet quality. This report uses USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to study where households acquired food during a 7-day period in 2012 (July 2016).

WIC Households' Food Purchases Using WIC Benefits and Paying Out of Pocket: A Case Study of Cold Cereal Purchasesby Diansheng Dong, Hayden Stewart, Elizabeth Frazão, Andrea Carlson, and Jeffrey Hyman, ERS. WIC households incur no cost for WIC-approved foods, and economic theory suggests that they may be less sensitive to prices when using WIC benefits than when paying out of pocket. ERS examines this assumption in a case study of WIC households' choices in purchasing cold cereals (May 2016).

Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel To Get There? Initial Findings from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey—by Michele Ver Ploeg, Lisa Mancino, and Jessica E. Todd, ERS. This report compares food shopping patterns of (1) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to nonparticipant households, (2) participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to nonparticipants, and (3) food-insecure to food-secure households. On March 31, 2015, ERS hosted a webinar: First Findings from USDA's FoodAPS that provided an overview of FoodAPS and this report (see Connect & Explore: First Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS).

Published reports and articles based on FoodAPS data are also searchable in the ERS Food and Nutrition Assistance Research Reports Database.

Journal articles

"Food Store Choices of Poor Households: A Discrete Choice Analysis of the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS)"—by Rebecca Taylor and Sofia B. Villas-Boas, American Journal of Agricultural Economics98 (4): 513-32. This article uses FoodAPS data to estimate consumer food outlet choices as a function of outlet type and household attributes in a multinomial mixed logit model. More specifically, the authors allow for the composition of the local retail food environment to play a role in explaining household store choice decisions and food acquisition patterns. The study found that households are willing to pay more per week in distance traveled to shop at superstores, supermarkets, and fast food outlets than at farmers markets and smaller grocery stores, and that willingness to pay is heterogeneous across income group, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation, and other household and food environment characteristics (July 2016).

"The Effects of Benefit Timing and Income Fungibility on Food Purchasing Decisions among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households"—by Travis Smith, Joshua P. Berning, Xiaosi Yang, Gregory Colson, and Jeffrey H. Dorfman, American Journal of Agricultural Economics 98 (2): 564-80. This article uses FoodAPS data to examine the "SNAP benefit cycle" where SNAP participants have higher consumption shortly after receiving their benefits, followed by lower consumption toward the end of the benefit month. The authors find evidence of two behavioral responses, working in tandem to drive much of the cycle: (1) short-run impatience—a higher preference to consume today, and (2) fungibility of income—the degree of substitutability between a SNAP dollar and a cash dollar. However, the degree of short-run impatience and fungibility of income are found to differ significantly across poverty levels and use of grocery lists to plan food purchases (January 2016).

Work in progress


2016 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) grants

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), with support from USDA's Economic Research Service and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), has organized a new two-year research initiative consisting of ten distinct projects that will leverage the FoodAPS data set to address issues related to food security, nutrition, and health in the United States. The first year of funding for the NBER grants is fiscal year 2016.

The Effect of SNAP and School Food Programs on Food Spending, Diet Quality, and Food Security: Sensitivity to Program and Income Reporting Error

Investigator and institution: Robert Moffitt, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics, Johns Hopkins University.

The Nature, Consequences and Geographic Variation of Misreporting of SNAP Participation.

Investigators and institutions: Bruce D. Meyer, McCormick Foundation Professor at Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, and Nikolas Mittag, Assistant Professor at Cerge, Charles University, Czech Republic.

Is There an Nth of the Month Effect? The Timing of SNAP Issuance, Food Expenditures, and Grocery Prices

Investigators and institutions: Jacob S. Goldin, Fellow, Stanford Law School, Tatiana Homonoff, Assistant Professor, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, and Katherine H. Meckel, EPIC Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Economics, Texas A&M University.

Is SNAP Like Cash for Recipients and Stores? Evidence from FoodAPS

Investigators and institutions: Marianne Bitler, Professor of Economics, UC Davis, and Timothy Beatty, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis.

USDA Food Assistance Programs (SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, and the School Breakfast Program) and Healthy Food Choices: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Geographic Variation in Food Prices

Investigators and institutions: Erin Bronchetti, Associate Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College, Benjamin Hansen, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Oregon, and Garret Christensen, Center for Effective Global Action, UC Berkeley.

The Role of School Meal Programs in the Food Environment Experienced by Children

Investigators and institutions: David E. Frisvold, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Henry Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, and Joseph Price, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Brigham Young University.

School Lunch and Children’s Food Consumption In and Out of School

Investigator and institution: Amy Ellen Schwartz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Professor of Public Affairs and Professor of Economics and Public Administration, Maxwell School, Syracuse University and NYU Institute for Education and Social Policy.

Investigating Causal Effects of SNAP and WIC on Food Insecurity Using FoodAPS

Investigators and institutions: Helen H. Jensen, Professor of Economics, Iowa State University, Brent Kreider, Professor of Economics, Iowa State University, and Oleksandr Zhylyevskyy, Associate Professor of Economics, Iowa State University.

The Economic Geography of WIC

Investigators and institutions: Di Fang, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas, Rodolfo Nayga, Professor and Tyson Chair in Food Policy Economics, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas, and Michael Thomsen, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas.

The Impacts of SNAP on Food Insecurity, Obesity, and Food Purchases: Who Misreports and Does it Matter?

Investigators and institutions: Charles J. Courtemanche, Associate Professor of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, Rusty Tchernis, Associate Professor of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, and Augustine Denteh, Ph.D. Student, Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

2016 University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR) grants

The University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR), in cooperation with ERS, has competitively awarded grants to qualified individuals and institutions to provide rigorous research that utilizes FoodAPS to expand our understanding of household food behaviors and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Research issues of interest include: benefit adequacy, diet quality, cost of a healthy diet, food security, and the role of the local food environment and other geographic factors. In addition to the FoodAPS data, geographically-linked data on the local food environment and food prices compiled as part of the FoodAPS Geography Component (FoodAPS-GC) are available for awardees. Three grants have been awarded for 2016, and 12 grants were awarded in 2014. 

Household Responses to Per-Capita Reductions to Food Stamp Benefits: School’s Out and So are School Meals

Investigators and institutions: Lorenzo Almada (PI), Columbia University, and Ian McCarthy (Consultant), Emory University.

Food acquisition and health outcomes among new SNAP recipients since the Great Recession

Investigators and institutions: Jay Bhattacharya (PI), Stanford University, and Rita Hamad (Co-PI), Stanford University.

Food Acquisitions, the Thrifty Food Plan, and Benefit Adequacy for SNAP Participants

Investigators and institutions: Wen You (PI), Virginia Tech University, and George Davis (Co-PI), Virginia Tech University.

2014 University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR) grants
The Relationship of Food Price Variations to Healthy Food Acquisition

Investigators and institutions: Hilary Seligman (PI), Stanford University, Sanjay Basu (Co-Investigator), Stanford University, and Christopher Wimer (Co-Investigator), Columbia University.

The Effects of Benefit Timing and Income Fungibility on Food Purchasing Decisions among SNAP Households

Investigators and institutions: Joshua Berning (PI), University of Georgia, Gregory Colson (Co-PI), University of Georgia, Jeffrey H. Dorfman (Senior Personnel), University of Georgia, and Travis A. Smith (Co-Investigator), University of Minnesota.

Variation in Food Prices and SNAP Adequacy for Purchasing the Thrifty Food Plan

Investigators and institutions: Erin Bronchetti (PI), Swarthmore College, Garret Christensen (Co-PI), Swarthmore College (Co-PI), and Benjamin Hansen (Co-PI), University of Oregon.

The Effect of Food Price on Food Insecurity and Diet Quality: Exploring Potential Moderating Roles of SNAP and Consumer Competency

Investigators and institutions: Yunhee Chang (PI), University of Mississippi, Jinhee Kim (Co-PI), University of Maryland, and Swarn Chatterjee (Co-PI), University of Georgia.

Influence of SNAP Participation and Food Environment on Nutritional Quality of Food at Home Purchases

Investigators and institutions: Amy Hillier (PI), University of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Chrisinger (Co-Investigator), University of Pennsylvania, and Tony E. Smith (Co-Investigator), University of Pennsylvania.

Do SNAP Recipients Get the Best Prices?

Investigators and institutions: Conrad Lyford (PI), Texas Tech University, Carlos Carpio (Co-PI), Texas Tech University, Tullaya Boonsaeng (Co-PI), Texas Tech University, and Janani Thapa (Co-PI), Texas Tech University.

The Spatial Context of Food Shopping: Understanding How Local Food Retailer Access and Pricing Affect Household Behavior

Investigators and institutions: Scott Allard (PI), University of Chicago, and Patricia Ruggles (Co-PI), NORC at the University of Chicago.

Contextualizing Family Food Decisions: The Role of Household Characteristics, Neighborhood Deprivation, and Local Food Environments

Investigators and institutions: Sarah Bowen (PI), North Carolina State University, Richelle Winkler (Co-PI), Michigan Technical University, J. Dara Bloom (Co-Investigator), North Carolina State University, and Lillian O’Connell (Co-Investigator), North Carolina State University.

Neighborhood Disadvantage, Food Resources in the Environment, and the Influence on Food Store Choice and Purchasing Behavior among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participants and SNAP Eligible Households

Investigators and institutions: Alison Gustafson (PI), University of Kentucky, James Allen (Co-Investigator), University of Kentucky, Mark Swanson (Co-Investigator), University of Kentucky, and Nancy Schoenberg (Co-Investigator), University of Kentucky.

A Spatial Interaction Model of Food Access and Its Relationship to Food Insecurity

Investigators and institutions: Barbara Laraia (PI), University of California, Berkeley, Hilary Hoynes (Co-PI), University of California, Berkeley, and Janelle Downing (Graduate Student Researcher), University of California, Berkeley.

Household Composition and the Calorie Crunch: The Importance of Non-Unitary Models of the Family for Budgeting Over Time

Investigator and institution: Michael Kuhn (PI), University of Oregon.

If You Build It Will They Come? Store Choice Determinants among SNAP and Low-Income Households

Investigators and institutions: Sofia Berto Villas-Boas (PI), University of California, Berkeley, and Rebecca Taylor (Co-Investigator), University of California, Berkeley.

Cooperative agreements

The Effect of SNAP on Food Purchases on the Quality and Timing of Household Food Purchases

Investigators and institutions: Timothy Beatty (PI), University of California, Davis, and Charlotte Tuttle, ERS.

Demand for Healthy Food Away from Home (FAFH) by Individuals with Low Food Access

Investigators and institutions: Dave Weatherspoon (PI) and Andrea Marie Leschewski, Michigan State University, and Timothy Park, ERS.

FoodAPS Data Quality and Usability

Investigators and institutions: Edward Jaenicke (PI) and Benjamin Scharadin, Pennsylvania State University, and Jessica Todd, ERS.

Maximizing the SNAP Benefit through Optimizing Food Acquisitions

Investigators and institutions: Mary Zaki (PI), University of Maryland, and Jessica Todd, ERS.

Heterogeneity in SNAP Benefit Redemption: Causes and Characteristics

Investigators and institutions: Travis A. Smith (PI), Jeff Dorfman, Chen Zhen, Pourya Valizadeh, Zhongyuan Liu, Ran Huo, and Wenying Li, University of Georgia.

FoodAPS Geography Study

Investigators and institutions: Parke Wilde, Tufts University, and Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The Salient Features of the Local Food Retail Environment for Low-Income Americans in FoodAPS

Investigators and institutions: Parke Wilde and Abigail Steiner, Tufts University, and Michele Ver Ploeg, ERS.

Independent external research

Kids' Meal Purchase

Investigator and institution: Seung Hee Lee-Kwan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Foods Purchased at the Workplace

Investigator and institution: Stephen Onufrak (PI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beverage Purchase Price

Investigator and institution: Sohyun Park (PI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Effects of Food Stamp Benefits on Food Insecurity, Diet Quality, and Other Household Expenditures

Investigators and institutions: Ian McCarthy (PI), Emory University, and Lorenzo Almada, Columbia University.

SNAP, Obesity, and Unmeasured Confounders

Investigators and institutions: Sanjay Basu (PI) and Joseph Rigdon, Stanford University.

Food Assistance and Child Hunger

Investigators and institutions: Allison J. Tracy (PI), Alice Frye, and Amanda Richer, Wellesley Centers for Women, and Duke Storen, Share Our Strength.

The Influence of the Food Environment on Childhood Obesity

Investigators and institutions: Sara Bleich (PI), Kelly Bower, Rachel Johnson Thornton, and Julia Wolfson, Johns Hopkins University.

Examining Relationships between Measures of the Neighborhood Food Environment and Household Shopping and Purchasing Behaviors

Investigators and institutions: Timothy Barnes (PI), Simone French, and David Van Riper, University of Minnesota.

Habit Formation and the Persistent Impact of WIC

Investigators and institutions: David Frisvold (PI) and Emily Leslie, University of Iowa.

Income, Geography, and Nutrition Decisions: An Economic Model

Investigators and institutions: Hunt Allcott (PI), New York University, Rebecca Diamond, Stanford University, and Jean-Pierre Dubèe, University of Chicago.

Assessing the Impact of Food Restrictions under SNAP on Food Choice by Children and Families

Investigators and institutions: Chen Zhen (PI), University of Georgia, Shawn Karns and David Chrest, Research Triangle Institute (RTI), and Biing-Hwan Lin, ERS.

Exploring FoodAPS Data for SNAP and WIC

Investigators and institutions: Sangeetha Malaiyandi (PI), Danielle Berman, Wesley Dean, and Dennis Ranalli, Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.

Bringing the Food Environment Home: The Effect of a Systematically Measured Food Environment on Parent Choices and Childhood Obesity

Investigators and institutions: Wen You (PI), Jackie Yenerall, and Jennie Hill, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Biing-Hwan Lin, ERS.

Food Shopping Access Barriers of Residents of Food Desserts: Are They Real and Are They Modified by Rurality, Income, and Food Assistance?

Investigators and institutions: Angela Liese (PI), Bethany Bell, and Xiaonan Ma, University of South Carolina.

Influences on Fruit and Vegetable Acquisition: An Examination of the Community Food Environment, Household Purchase Behaviors, Psychosocial Attributes, and SNAP Status

Investigators and institutions: Bethany Bell (PI), Angela Liese, and Xiaonan Ma, University of South Carolina.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) Review of Food Packages

Investigators and institutions: Helen Jensen (PI), Hocheol Jeon, Iowa State University.

Examining How Consumers Respond to Price Changes in Groceries versus Restaurants: A Natural Experiment from Food Tax Exemption

Investigators and institutions: Yuqing Zhen (PI) and Shaheer Burney, University of Kentucky, and Diansheng Dong, ERS.

Last updated: Thursday, September 01, 2016

For more information contact: Elina Tselepidakis Page and Elizabeth Larimore