ERS Charts of Note

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Americans purchase almost two-thirds of their calories from large grocery stores

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Americans acquire food from many sources—supermarkets, convenience stores, fast food outlets, and more. But in practice, large grocery stores dominate. A recent ERS analysis of household-level data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) found that three-quarters of U.S. households’ calories came from retail stores, with supermarkets, supercenters, and other large grocers providing 65 percent of calories by themselves. Small and specialty food stores like bakeries and farmers’ markets supplied 3 percent of calories and 6.5 percent came from convenience stores, dollar stores, and other stores. Restaurants and other eating places provided 17 percent of household calories. ERS researchers used the detailed FoodAPS data to calculate the nutrient value of food acquisitions and found that the overall nutritional quality of foods purchased at large grocery stores was higher than that of foods purchased at other retail outlets or restaurant and fast-food establishments. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Nutritional Quality of Foods Acquired by Americans: Findings from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, released on February 21, 2018.

Healthy weight adults spend more time eating than do overweight and obese adults

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Data from the newly released Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey reveal findings about time spent eating and body weight that are that consistent with patterns from studies in other countries. On an average day in 2016, healthy weight adults age 20 and older spent more time eating than did overweight and obese adults. Compared with overweight adults, healthy weight adults spent 10 percent more time eating (88 minutes versus 80 minutes per day). Differences in the time spent eating between healthy weight and obese adults were larger. Healthy weight adults spent 11.4 percent more time eating than adults with low-risk obesity and 20.5 percent more time eating than adults with higher risk obesity on an average day. Total time spent eating includes both time spent eating and drinking as a primary, or main, activity (primary eating) and time spent eating while doing something else, such as watching television or driving (secondary eating). The differences in total time spent eating by body weight category were driven by differences in primary, not secondary eating. Time use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, updated December 2017.

Households with obese children differ from those with no obese children

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A recent ERS study used data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at how households with at least one obese child differ from households without any obese children. The study found that the parents with obese children were less likely to be married, employed, or have a college degree. For example, the shares of fathers and mothers who were employed were lower among obese-child households (87 percent for fathers and 60 percent for mothers) relative to parents in nonobese-child households (93 percent for fathers and 63 percent for mothers). In addition, less than a quarter of fathers and mothers had a college degree or higher among obese-child households, whereas more than one third of fathers and mothers had the same level of education among nonobese-child households. A version of this chart appears in "Households With at Least One Obese Child Differ in Several Ways From Those Without" in the December 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Sodium content of some food products slowly declining

Monday, December 4, 2017

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge consumers to make careful food choices to lower sodium intake from the current average of 3,440 mg per day to less than 2,300 mg. The Dietary Guidelines point out that most sodium consumed in the United States comes from salts added by food processors and foodservice establishments—hence the need for making careful choices in the grocery store and when eating out. Food companies face challenges in reducing sodium because of the role salt plays in the taste and cost of their products. Steep decreases in salt can lead to changes in product taste, which can result in lost sales. Salt is a relatively inexpensive ingredient, and food manufacturers currently do not have similarly-priced options to replace it in their products. A recent ERS report found that from 2008 to 2012, average sodium content in three food categories declined as new lower sodium products replace those with higher sodium contents, with a decrease of 2.5 percent in yogurt products, a 4-percent reduction in breakfast cereals, and a 3.5-percent decrease in snacks. The data for this chart are from the ERS report, An Assessment of Product Turnover in the U.S. Food Industry and Effects on Nutrient Content, published on November 20, 2017.

Thanksgiving is a day for food, and Black Friday is a day for non-food shopping

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Do people really spend that much time preparing food, eating, drinking, and cleaning up the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and on holiday shopping on Black Friday? The answer to both questions is, “Yes!” Over a survey period of 2003-16, Americans spent an average of 88 minutes eating and drinking on Thanksgiving. This was about 15 minutes greater than the time Americans spent eating and drinking on average for 6 other major holidays. Similarly, compared with the average for these non-Thanksgiving holidays, Americans spent much more time engaged in meal preparation and cleanup (127 minutes versus 46 minutes). Now, when it comes to the day after Thanksgiving, relative to other days, Americans tend to spend more of their time shopping for items other than food. Americans spent 46 minutes shopping for non-food items on an average Black Friday, which is about 250 percent higher than an average non-Thanksgiving holiday. More information on ERS’s Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Oranges and apples are America’s top fruit and fruit juice choices

Monday, October 23, 2017

Americans consumed an average of 115.4 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2015, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. This data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in eating places, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Apple juice consumption at 14 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2015, combined with fresh apples at 10.7 pounds per person, and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.3 pounds per person), puts apples in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption. While orange juice leads juice consumption at 23.7 pounds (2.7 gallons), total orange consumption—juice and fresh—came in second. Americans consumed 11.3 pounds of fresh bananas per person in 2015, almost a pound more than fresh apple consumption. Consumption of grapes reached 7.9 pounds per person, and strawberries, watermelon, and pineapple rounded out the list of America’s top fruit choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2017.

Distance to grocery stores and vehicle access influence where low-income households shop for food

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Households that struggle to get to large grocery stores may rely on close by sources of food such as convenience stores or fast-food restaurants that generally provide a smaller variety of healthy foods. A recent ERS study used data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to examine if food shopping behaviors of access-burdened households—those that live more than 0.5 of a mile from a SNAP-authorized supermarket or superstore and do not have a vehicle—differ from households that live within 0.5 of a mile of these stores or have their own vehicle (sufficient-access households). Looking only at SNAP and low-income non-SNAP households, the researchers found that 74 percent of access-burdened households visited a supermarket, superstore, or large grocery store during an average week in 2012, compared to 85 percent of sufficient-access households. Access-burdened households did not appear to substitute convenience stores and restaurants for visits to large grocers; only 63 percent of access-burdened households visited an eating place compared with 78 percent of sufficient-access households, and differences in convenience store visits were not statistically significant. The data for this chart are drawn from the ERS report, The Influence of Food Store Access on Grocery Shopping and Food Spending, released on October 18, 2017.

Obesity of parents is associated with obesity of children

Thursday, September 14, 2017

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 out of 5 children and adolescents (ages 2-19) are obese in the United States. A recent ERS study used data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at how households with at least one obese child differ from households without an obese child. The study found that the parents of obese children were more likely to be unmarried, less educated, and have lower incomes. The researchers also found a strong association between parents’ and children’s obesity. About a quarter of mothers (27 percent) and fathers (25 percent) with no obese children were obese. In contrast, 42 percent of mothers and 43 percent of fathers with at least one obese child were obese. This strong association suggests that shared environments and genetic compositions likely play an important role in childhood obesity. The data for this chart are drawn from the ERS report, The Differences in Characteristics Among Households With and Without Obese Children: Findings From USDA’s FoodAPS, released on September 13, 2017.

Americans’ consumption of vegetables and legumes has moved closer to recommendations

Friday, September 8, 2017

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet consume 2½ cup-equivalents (cup-eq) of vegetables per day. A cup-eq of vegetables is generally equal to 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. The Guidelines include recommended amounts of five vegetable subgroups (dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy, and other) and advise Americans to consume a variety of vegetables from each subgroup. According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data (a proxy for consumption), the average American consumed 1.72 cup-eq of vegetables and legumes per day in 2015—69 percent of the daily recommendation for a 2,000 calorie-per-day-diet—and up from 1.49 cup eq in 1970. While starchy vegetable consumption declined by 17 percent (mostly due to drops in fresh potatoes and canned corn), daily dark green vegetable consumption grew from 0.02 cup-eq in 1970 to 0.15 cup-eq in 2015. Romaine and leaf lettuce and fresh broccoli were the largest contributors, reflecting the growing demand for salads and fresh vegetables. Consumption of legumes and other vegetables increased, closing in on the Guidelines’ recommendations. Red and orange vegetable consumption grew to 0.23 cup-eq per day in 2015, but is still just 30 percent of the recommendation. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated July 26, 2017.

Berries led growth in frozen fruit consumption over the last three decades

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

America’s love affair with frozen smoothies continues to grow and along with it consumption of its quintessential ingredient, frozen fruit. Between the early 1980s and 2015, the annual supply of frozen fruit available for consumption, led by a doubling in demand for frozen berries, grew by 61 percent to 4.8 pounds per person—about 5 percent of 2015’s total U.S. fruit availability. While strawberries remain consumers’ favorite frozen fruit—accounting for 40 percent of availability in 2015—blueberries and raspberries increased their share from 8 percent in 1980-85 to 20 percent in 2010-15. Peaches led the growth in availability of non-berry frozen fruits, followed by cherries. Frozen apples, used mainly in commercial and foodservice baking, lost market share, dropping from 17 to 8 percent of frozen fruit availability over 1980-2015. Consumer demand for healthy, convenient foods and manufacturers’ use of improved freezing technologies to improve product quality, along with colorful packaging and smoothie-ready fruit combinations and add-ins, underlie the growth in frozen fruit consumption. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated July 26, 2017.

Availability of frozen dairy products was 22 pounds per American in 2014

Monday, July 10, 2017

In honor of National Ice Cream Day, July 16, many Americans might celebrate with a scoop or two of their preferred frozen dairy treat. According to ERS’s Food Availability data, the food supply provided 21.9 pounds of frozen dairy products per person in 2014—a decline from 26.2 pounds per person 40 years ago. Ice cream (regular, low fat, and nonfat) is still America’s favorite frozen dairy treat, accounting for 84 percent of total frozen dairy product availability. Supplies of traditionally lower-fat options like low and nonfat fat ice cream and sherbet have either remained steady or declined over the course of the past 40 years, despite increased consumer interest in cutting calories and fat. After growing in popularity in the early 1990s, frozen yogurt availability has dropped from 3.5 pounds per capita in 1991 to 1.2 pounds in 2014. Competition from non-dairy frozen treats made from soy and nut milks, increased popularity of substitute products like refrigerated yogurt, and preferences for products without lactose may have contributed to declining frozen dairy product consumption. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

Consumption of grains by Americans is above recommendations

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people requiring 2,000 calories per day consume 6 ounce-equivalents of grains, half of which should be whole grains. An ounce equivalent of grains is generally equal to 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal, 1 tortilla (6 inch diameter), or 1 pancake (5 inch diameter). According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability, Americans consumed an average of 6.7 ounce-equivalents of wheat flour, corn products, and other grains (rye flour, oat products, and barley products) per day in 2014. This is a 35-percent increase from 5.0 ounce-equivalents per person per day consumed in 1970. While wheat flour consumption grew by 23 percent, consumption of corn products grew by 202 percent, reflecting the growing popularity of corn-based foods, such as tortillas and chips, and the use of cornstarch in processed foods. Consumption of rye flour, oat products, and barley products totaled 0.21 ounce-equivalents per person per day in 1970, and fell to 0.16 ounce-equivalents in 2014. This chart appears in "U.S. Diets Still Out of Balance with Dietary Recommendations" in the July 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

What time of day do Americans engage in primary and secondary eating?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Errata: On May 12, 2017, three numbers in the text of this Chart of Note were revised to correct for erroneous double counting during the indicated 3-hour time period. The corrected percentages are 59 percent reported primary eating and drinking between 5:00 and 7:59 pm, 50 percent between 11:00 am and 1:59 pm, and 34 percent between 7:00 and 9:59 am in 2015.

Data from the Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey provide a snapshot of when Americans eat and drink as their main activity (primary eating and drinking), or when they eat while doing something else (secondary eating). Over an average day in 2015, 95 percent of people age 15 and older engaged in primary eating and drinking at least once, with an average of 2.1 times. Americans have two peak times for primary eating and drinking—noon to 12:59 pm and 6:00 to 6:59 pm. More Americans make time for dinner than for lunch as a primary activity; 59 percent reported primary eating and drinking between 5:00 and 7:59 pm and 50 percent between 11:00 am and 1:59 pm. A third (34 percent) reported eating breakfast as a primary activity between 7:00 and 9:59 am in 2015. Those breakfast skippers—and others—may be grazing throughout the day, as 54 percent ate as a secondary activity at least once during a typical day in 2015, with an average of 1.4 times. From 9 am to 9 pm, at least 5 percent of Americans engaged in secondary eating each hour. The top three activities that accompanied secondary eating were watching television and movies, paid work, and socializing with others. A version of this chart appears in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Households shopping at supermarkets, supercenters, and warehouse club stores have highest healthy basket scores

Monday, May 8, 2017

Over the past two decades, some store formats—including supercenters, dollar stores, and warehouse club stores—have increased their share of Americans’ spending on “at-home food”—food and beverages purchased from retail stores. Shifts between store formats could have implications for shopping patterns. A recent ERS study computed “healthy basket” scores for monthly at-home food and beverage purchases. The higher the score, the closer a household’s purchases aligned with healthy-diet expenditure shares. Baskets were categorized by the format accounting for the household’s largest share of food expenditures. Scores were highest for households predominantly shopping at warehouse club stores (8.3), supermarkets (8.2), and supercenters (8.0). Household food baskets dominated by purchases from drug stores, convenience stores, and dollar stores had the least healthful purchases. Over 2008-12, an average of 67 percent of households in the data predominantly shopped at supermarkets, 17 percent at supercenters, and 6 percent at warehouse club stores. The other 10 percent shopped predominately at drug, dollar, convenience, and other store formats. This chart appears in "Households Purchase More Produce and Low-Fat Dairy at Supermarkets, Supercenters, and Warehouse Club Stores" in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, May 2017.

Steady increases in at-home consumption of berries resulted in a rising share of U.S. berry consumption occurring at home

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Flavor, healthfulness, convenience, and year-round availability have contributed to increasing consumer demand for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other berries, with per capita loss-adjusted availability growing from an average of 4.5 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 6.6 pounds during 2007-08 and to 9.9 pounds in 2014. Linking ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with food intake surveys from 1994-2008 reveals that berries, like other fruit, are mainly consumed at home rather than away from home at eating out places. The increase in berry consumption comes exclusively from purchases at grocery stores (the food-at-home market). The at-home share of berry consumption rose from 83 percent during 1994-98 to 89-91 percent during 2003-08. The loss-adjusted availability of berries consumed at home rose from 3.7 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 5.9 pounds during 2007-08, while away-from-home consumption stayed just shy of 0.8 pounds per person. This chart appears in the ERS report U.S. Food Commodity Availability by Food Source, 1994-2008, December 2016.

Meal preparation time varies across different U.S. demographic groups

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On an average day in 2014, Americans age 18 and over spent 37 minutes in food preparation and cleanup. However, the average time spent in “meal prep”—defined as preparing food and beverages, serving them, and cleaning up afterwards—varied considerably among different groups. Men spent an average of 22 minutes, whereas women spent an average of 51 minutes. Younger adults (age 18-24) spent an average of 21 minutes, while working-age adults (age 25-64) spent 38 minutes. Those age 65 or older spent an average of 43 minutes. Employed individuals spent less time in meal prep than those not employed, and those in households without children spent less time than those in households with children. Participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) had the longest average duration in meal prep time—62 minutes. Time spent preparing infant formula, breastfeeding, and pumping breast milk is included in meal prep time in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). These time use data are from the ERS-developed 2014 Eating & Health Module—a supplement to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ ATUS. This chart appears in “Americans Spend an Average of 37 Minutes a Day Preparing and Serving Food and Cleaning Up” in ERS’s November 2016 Amber Waves magazine.

Eating out market drove chicken’s popularity

Monday, January 9, 2017

Per person chicken consumption in the United States more than doubled over the past four decades. Linking ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with food intake surveys from 1994-2008 reveals that the away-from-home market, which includes restaurants with wait staff, fast food places, school cafeterias, and other eating out places, drove much of the growth in U.S. chicken consumption over the 1994-2008 period. The share of total chicken consumption prepared by away-from-home eating out places rose from 41.9 percent during 1994-98 to 46.4 percent during 2007-08. Loss-adjusted chicken availability per person in the away-from-home market was 16.8 pounds in 1994-98 and rose to the range of 22.5 to 24.8 pounds during 2005-08. In contrast, chicken obtained at grocery stores (the food-at-home market) grew by just 2.6 pounds per person from 23.3 to 25.9 pounds. The greater growth in chicken consumption away from home is consistent with the introduction of chicken nuggets, chicken strips, and grilled chicken sandwiches and their rising popularity in fast food and other eating out places. This chart appears in the ERS report U.S. Food Commodity Availability by Food Source, 1994-2008, released on December 28, 2016.

Seventy percent of U.S. calories consumed in 2010 were from plant-based foods

Friday, January 6, 2017

ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data provide estimates of the sources of calories in the U.S. diet. These data are derived from the supply of food available for consumption and adjusted for inedible peels and pits and for spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual intake. Loss-adjusted daily calories per person decreased by 2 percent between 2000 and 2010 from 2,545 to 2,481 calories. The share of calories from animal- and plant-based foods was the same in both years at 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In both years, grains were the primary contributor to daily calories per capita. Added plant-based fats and oils—such as salad and cooking oils, margarine, and shortening—ranked second, followed by meat, poultry, and fish. Per capita availability of calories from nuts showed the largest percentage change, posting a 25-percent increase to 72 calories per day in 2010. Calories from the vegetable and added sugar and sweeteners categories decreased by 11 percent. This chart appears in “A Look at Calorie Sources in the American Diet” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

SNAP households are less likely to think they eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables

Friday, December 9, 2016

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adult men and women eat between 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. To help gauge perceived dietary habits, respondents in USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) were asked a series of questions about their health and diet. When the primary respondents (the main food shopper or meal planner in the household) were asked if they think they eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables or if they should eat more, 76.1 percent of primary respondents in households receiving SNAP benefits said they should eat more. In contrast, 66.1 percent of those who reside in households not receiving SNAP felt they should eat more fruits and vegetables. By better understanding perceived health and dietary habits, food assistance programs may be modified to help Americans follow heathier diets. This chart appears in “FoodAPS Data Now Available to the General Public” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Yes, Thanksgiving really is a day of cooking

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

If you think Thanksgiving is a day spent cooking, eating, and socializing, you are correct. On this national holiday over a survey period of 2003-15, Americans spent an average of 128 minutes in meal preparation and cleanup—over three times the 34 minutes spent on these tasks on an average Saturday or Sunday. Time spent eating and drinking is greater as well--89 minutes on Thanksgiving versus an average of 71 minutes on a average weekend day. Socializing time is over twice the weekend average—148 minutes versus 64 minutes. All this cooking, cleaning, and socializing leaves less time for other weekend activities. The average time spent in sports and exercise is less on Thanksgiving, as is time spent on shopping, including online purchases. Less time is also spent on paid work (32 minutes versus 75 minutes) and travel (55 minutes versus 72 minutes) due to less commuting. Time spent watching television and movies, however, is about the same as the average weekend day. This chart uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey and draws from the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data.

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