Food-Related Data Sources

Food Data Sources

Federal Statistical Agencies and the private sector develop and maintain a wide variety of data on various aspects of food markets and consumer food choice behavior. Each data source is designed to cover some, but not all, of the information needed to support key policy issues facing the Nation. A summary of the content and key attributes for each data set with a link to the source is available below (see also Summary of Major Sources for Food-Related Data for a convenient portable file).

ERS encourages research that makes appropriate use of existing, nationally representative data. Major sources of food-related data are summarized in the table below by type of data:

Store sales
Name Source Description Time period Sample Major uses and content Others
SCANTRACK Services Nielsen Point of sale data from food stores, drugstores, mass merchandisers (including supercenters), dollar stores, club stores, military, and convenience stores. Weekly data with 2-week lag between collection and release. Nationally representative. Samples of retailer sales from 59,450 stores. Analyses of dollar sales, unit sales, item prices and promotional activity at national and lower geographical levels for specific retail channels. Costco not currently a Nielsen cooperator.
InfoScan IRI, Inc. Point of sale data from food stores, drugstores, mass merchandisers (including supercenters), dollar stores, club stores, military, and convenience stores. Weekly data with 2-week lag between collection and release. Nationally representative. Sample of retail sales from over 77,000 outlets. Analyses of dollar sales, unit sales, item prices and promotional activity at national and lower geographical levels for specific retail channels. Costco is not a participating retailer.
Consumer purchases
Name Source Description Time period Sample Major uses and content Others
Consumer Report on Eating Share Trends NPD Group Individual adult and teen purchases at commercial restaurants, including fast food outlets. Includes spending and identifies establishment. Quarterly data with one-month lag between collection and release. Nationally representative panel of 600,000. Sample of 60,000 individuals a month. Analyses of household food-away-from-home purchases. Menu information allows for evaluation of nutritional qualities of food as well as price and quantity studies. Uses diary method.
Consumer Expenditure Survey BLS Household spending. One-year lag between collection and release. Nationally representative. Surveys 7,500 households annually. Analyses of yearly consumer food spending. No information on quantities or prices. Limited breakdown of spending for food at home.
HOMESCAN Consumer Panel National Panel Nielsen Household panel members scan purchases of all packaged goods from all retail outlets. Includes prices, quantities, promotion information, and demographics of households. Includes $ sales for 25 aggregates of random-weight products. Monthly or quarterly data with approximately 3-4 week lag between report period and release. Nationally representative sample of households. Longitudinal panel of about 100,000 households. Purchases, including prices and quantities, by households. National reporting as well as selected major markets. Household demographics, attitude and health information enable behavioral research. Currently, random-weight sales are reported for 25 aggregates (i.e. fruits, vegetables, cheese, bagels, candy, etc.)— expanded to 150 categories in 2011.
Consumer Network Panel National Panel IRI, Inc. Household purchasing data; panel members scan their food purchases from all outlets. Includes prices, quantities, promotion information, and demographics. Monthly data with 11-day lag between collection and release. Nationally representative sample of households. Longitudinal panel of about 100,000 households. Purchases, including prices and quantities, by households. National reporting as well as selected major markets. Household demographics, attitude, and health information enable behavioral research. Currently, random-weight sales are reported for 25 aggregates (i.e. fruits, vegetables, cheese, bagels, candy, etc.)— expanded to 150 categories in 2013.
Consumption
Name Source Description Time period Sample Major uses and content Others
NHANES USDA/HHS Food intake by individuals based on 24-hour recall for 2 days; includes personal, economic, health, and demographic characteristics of sampled person only; where food was purchased and eaten. Data collected annually, with 2-year lag between collection and release. Nationally representative. Samples 5,000 individuals yearly. Who eats what in America. Compares intake with dietary guidelines. Analyzes effects of individual characteristics on food consumption. Links food intake with health outcomes. Food intake recall method undercounts calories; no food prices; cross-section only.
Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey NCHS for USDA's Economic Research Service Supplement to NHANES. Questions about diet and health, knowledge, and attitudes. Links diet, health, knowledge, and attitudes with food intake. Collection period: 2005-2014. Nationally representative. NHANES sample, one adult per household. Assess roles of labels, nutrition education, and information programs in food choices, dietary behaviors, and nutrition and weight outcomes. Some questions change in response to research concerns. Data may arrive sometime after concerns are stated or relevant.
National Eating Trends NPD Group Food intake by individuals based on 2-week diary includes personal, economic, and demographic characteristics of all household members; where food was purchased and eaten. Three-month lag between collection and release. Nationally representative sample of 2,000 households continuously tracked for 30 years. Who eats what in the United States. Compares intake with dietary guidelines. Analyzes effects of household characteristics on food consumption. Links food intake with socio-demographic factors. Small sample and self-reported diary reduces reliability. Based on frequency of use rather than amount consumed.
Availability
Name Source Description Time period Sample Major uses and content Others
Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System USDA Annual per capita estimates of food and nutrients available for U.S. consumption based on domestic production adjusted for inventory changes, exports, imports, and nonfood uses. Two-year lag between collection and release. Estimates not based on sampling. Analyzes trends and shifts in food consumption. Core series dates back to 1909 and is the foundation for calculating nutrient content of food supply and loss-adjusted availability (which can be compared with Federal dietary recommendations). National averages only. Requires knowledge of loss, wastes and spoilage to approximate actual consumption.
Food-related
Name Source Description Time period Sample Major uses and content Others
Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) Census Bureau Information on income and program participation. Monthly event history for 4-month recall (reference) periods. The reengineered SIPP (2014) will have an annual reference period. Longitudinal; 40,000 households in the 1996 Panel; 36,700 in the 2001 Panel; 42,000 in the 2008 Panel. Covers demographic characteristics, labor force participation, cash and noncash income, and assets. Topical modules collect medical care costs, shelter costs, dependent care costs, child support, taxes, businesses, school enrollment, employment history, food insufficiency, and child and adult well-being. No data on food expenditures, consumption, or prices.
Current Population Survey Census Bureau, and supported by BLS; December Food Security Supplement supported by USDA/ERS. Primarily a survey of labor force participation and employment. Fielded monthly; reference period varies among data elements. 55,000 households monthly. 45,000 for food security supplement. Analyzes income, employment, and job seeking. ERS's Food Security Supplement: every Dec; began in 1995; collects food expenditures, food assistance participation, food insecurity, and ways of coping. One half of households in the supplement can be matched to previous year for longitudinal analysis. No data on food prices.
American Time Use Survey Census Bureau for Bureau of Labor Statistics Analyzes how Americans spend their time. Monthly and annual starting January, 2003; ERS's Eating & Health Module was fielded in 2006-08. 13,000 individuals annually. Time diary starts at 4:00 a.m. the day before the survey interview. Primary activities only are collected, except simultaneous childcare is also collected. Also collected are household roster, demographic updates, and labor force information from the final month of the CPS. The 2006-08 Eating & Health Module included eating and drinking beverages; general health, height and weight; food stamp and school meals participation; income; and grocery shopping and meal preparation. No data on food expenditures or prices. Time spent in food consumption is collected.
National Health Interview Survey Census Bureau for NCHS Major source of information for presence of disease, health care utilization, infant birth weight, health status, child behavior problems, and other health-related behaviors. Annual survey. 100,000 individuals. A survey of the health characteristics of the U.S. population. Collects data on the incidence of acute and chronic conditions, injury, physician visits, hospitalizations, and related topics using a stable core and changing modules on current health topics. Since 2011, includes USDA's adult food security module. No data on food expenditures, consumption, or prices.
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System State health departments for CDC Designed primarily for health habits of adult population. Conducted monthly starting in 1984. 4,000 persons (18 and older) per State. Examines health habits of the population and emerging issues. Core questions also include alcohol consumption, physical activity, and self-reported height and weight. 2004 & 2005 questions collected food consumption, nutrition, and health information. No data on food expenditures or prices.
State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS) NCHS (using National Immunization Survey) for State and local governments SLAITS modules collect information on health, child well-being and welfare. Annual. NIS sample size is 1 million families every year; SLAITS modules target different populations. Obtains information on vaccination coverage of children. SLAITS: health, child well-being, and welfare. NCHS works with sponsors to include new modules (that would target specific populations such as low-income households) using NIS sample or samples of SLAITS modules already developed. No data on food expenditures, consumption, or prices.
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA); USDA EFNEP is designed to provide low-income households advice and counseling (educational material) to improve nutrition, food resource management, and food safety behavior. Annual. 100,000 program participants; non-random. Assesses dietary intake data for adults heading low-income households with children. These data have been used for evaluations of program effects by CSREES and by researchers evaluating program at the State level. No data on food expenditures, consumption or prices.
Early Childhood Longitudinal Surveys—Kindergarten and Birth Cohorts National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education Longitudinal studies primarily examining child development from an educational perspective. Both cohort surveys also include questions on food assistance program participation, household food security, dietary behaviors, and measured height and weight. The 1998-99 cohort followed children from kindergarten through eighth grade; the 2001 cohort followed children from birth through kindergarten entry. The kindergarten cohort included a nationally representative sample of 21,260 children. The birth cohort was a nationally representative sample of 14,000 children. Obtained information on children's cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development across multiple settings (e.g., home, child care, school). No data on food expenditures or prices.
Store Tracking and Redemption System (STARS) Food and Nutrition Service, USDA STARS deals with the food benefit redemption process and supports retailer authorization, monitoring and investigation, as well as the ongoing participation and withdrawal and disqualification of stores. Monthly. Tracks the universe of stores authorized to accept SNAP and WIC benefits; approximately 162,000 retailers. Assesses the use of food benefits by store type, geographic area, month, and season. Details the quantity of benefits redeemed by each authorized store on a monthly basis. These data include store characteristics, location, ownership, types of merchandise, and amount of benefits redeemed by month. Can be aggregated by geography and time period. Data confidentiality requires special tabulations. No data on expenditures, consumption, or prices.
National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) Economic Research Service, USDA Nationally representative survey of household food purchases and acquisitions. Includes foods acquired for consumption at home and away from home. Data collected from April 2012 to January 2013. Sample of 4,826 households, includes subgroups based on household income and SNAP participation. Data includes quantities, expenditures, and nutrient information for all acquired foods and beverages; household characteristics and available resources (including food and nutrition assistance program benefits, if any); and measures of household access to food outlets. Public-use and restricted-use data are available.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

For more information contact: Mark Denbaly