Publications

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  • Most U.S. Households Do Their Main Grocery Shopping at Supermarkets and Supercenters Regardless of Income

    Amber Waves, August 03, 2015

    Data from USDA’s new FoodAPS survey reveal that SNAP participants and food-insecure households are less likely than higher income consumers to use their own vehicles for their primary food shopping, and more likely to use someone else's car, or to walk, bike, or take public transit.

  • 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

    EIB-138, March 23, 2015

    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.

    Errata: On September 13, 2016, ERS revised the categorization of households with members categorically eligible for WIC to exclude households where the only categorically eligible member was a child age 5. These children were incorrectly included previously; imputed income measures were also used as these measures became available since the report’s release; revised survey weights were also used to update all estimates in the report. Because of these changes, all of the estimates in the report have been revised. However, the results were not numerically or substantively different after these revisions were made, with one exception— the result that WIC participants were more likely to use supercenters as their primary store was no longer statistically significant. The text has been adjusted to reflect all of these changes.

    The results from EIB-138 were used in three ERS Charts of Note dated March 23, 2015; July 15, 2015; and August 11, 2015; and an Amber Waves feature article “Most U.S. Households Do Their Main Grocery Shopping at Supermarkets and Supercenters Regardless of Income,” dated August 3, 2015. For all but the August 11, 2015, Chart of Note, changes in estimates were not numerically or substantively different. In the August 11, 2015, Chart of Note, the difference between WIC participants’ and nonparticipants’ choice of supercenters as their primary stores was no longer statistically significant.

  • SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities To Achieve a Healthful Diet

    Amber Waves, November 03, 2014

    Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) value nutrition as much as other consumers, but their attempts to balance nutrition goals with competing constraints—time, distance to grocery stores, and money—may make it harder for SNAP shoppers to make healthy choices.

  • Dietary Guidelines Have Encouraged Some Americans To Purchase More Whole-Grain Bread

    Amber Waves, December 03, 2012

    There is little evidence that overall diet quality in the U.S. has improved in response to updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every 5 years. However, a recent study by ERS finds that, for whole grains, the 2005 Guidelines were able to nudge consumption patterns in the direction desired by the public health community—at least for some consumers.

  • International Food Security Assessment, 2011-21

    GFA-22, July 15, 2011

    ERS assesses the food security situation in 77 developing countries, including estimates for 2011 and projections for the next decade. The report is the latest in an annual series.

  • Choosing Healthy Foods Is More Challenging for Teens

    Amber Waves, March 14, 2011

    Caloric increases from food away from home and foods from school for 13-18 year olds likely reflect an increased availability of many types of foods in middle and high schools, including a la carte side dishes and desserts.

  • Will Calorie Labeling in Restaurants Make a Difference?

    Amber Waves, March 14, 2011

    A 2010 Federal law will require U.S. chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus and menu boards. Will consumers use this information to make healthier food choices?

  • How Food Away From Home Affects Children's Diet Quality

    ERR-104, October 04, 2010

    Compared with meals and snacks prepared at home, food prepared away from home increases caloric intake of children, especially older children. Among older children, food away from home also lowers their daily diet quality.

  • Eating Out Increases Daily Calorie Intake

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2010

    Among all meals eaten outside the home, lunch has the largest impact on the average adult, adding 158 calories to daily intake, compared with lunch prepared at home. Eating dinner out increases intake by 144 calories. Each away-from-home snack adds just over 100 calories to daily intake. Breakfast away from home adds 74 calories.

  • Methodology Behind the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database

    TB-1926, April 22, 2010

    The Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database (QFAHPD) was developed to provide market-level food prices that can be used to study how prices affect food choices, intake, and health outcomes. This report presents a detailed description of the methodology used to construct the QFAHPD. The database, constructed from 1999-2006 Nielsen Homescan data, includes quarterly observations on the mean price of 52 food categories for 35 market groups covering the contiguous United States. Data from 2006 indicate that cross-market price variation can be as much as three to four times greater than annual food price inflation.

  • The Impact of Food Away From Home on Adult Diet Quality

    ERR-90, February 16, 2010

    Consumption data show that for the average adult, meals away from home have an impact on daily caloric intake and diet quality.

  • Meeting Total Fat Requirements for School Lunches: Influence of School Policies and Characteristics

    ERR-87, December 02, 2009

    Concerns about child obesity have raised questions about the quality of meals served in the National School Lunch Program. Local, State, and Federal policymakers responded to these concerns beginning in the mid-1990s by instituting a range of policies and standards to improve the quality of U.S. Department of Agriculture-subsidized meals. Schools have been successful in meeting USDA nutrient standards except those for total fat and saturated fat. This report uses school-level data from the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment-III to calculate statistical differences between the fat content of NSLP lunches served by schools with different policies (e.g., menu planning) and characteristics like region and size. Positive associations are found between a meal's fat content and the presence of a la carte foods and vending machines, which are thought to indirectly affect the nutrient content of USDA-subsidized meals.

  • Food Policy: Check the List of Ingredients

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2009

    Policies designed to improve the diet quality and health of Americans are likely to have only marginal effects on consumers’ food choices. However, policies targeted directly at consumers such as nutrition information and education programs, along with labeling regulations, can spur the reformulation of products with healthier ingredients by stimulating competition among food manufacturers to offer products that appeal to health-conscious consumers. Manufacturers’ responsiveness to food policy provides policymakers with a lever to affect diet quality for large numbers of consumers. Effective use of this lever can help stimulate a chain reaction leading to healthy food reformulations and a more nutritious food supply.

  • When Nudging in the Lunch Line Might Be a Good Thing

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    With over 30 million children served each school day, USDA-sponsored school meals provide an important opportunity to improve diet and health. Schools can exert considerable control over the food choices they offer and the manner in which they are presented. Understanding how simple rules of thumb and certain cues, like presentation and visual appeal, can influence our on-the-spot decisions can reveal potential options to increase the link between intentions and behaviors. Choice architecture relies heavily on subtle cues, or “nudges,” to encourage people to follow through on their intentions. Behavioral economic theory suggests several possibilities to structure school cafeteria environments in a noncoercive manner to encourage healthy choices.

  • Behavioral Economic Concepts To Encourage Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias: Experiments and Lessons From College Students

    ERR-68, December 15, 2008

    ERS describes an experiment in a college cafeteria to assess how various payment options and menu selection methods affect food choices.

  • Market Failures: When the Invisible Hand Gets Shaky

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Government intervention in agricultural markets may be warranted under circumstances where markets fail to allocate resources efficiently.

  • Is Dietary Knowledge Enough? Hunger, Stress, and Other Roadblocks to Healthy Eating

    ERR-62, August 11, 2008

    Using a consumer demand model, ERS illustrates how both long-term health objectives and immediate visceral influences (e.g., time pressure) influence food choices.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More To Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective

    EIB-29, September 27, 2007

    Eight economic information bulletins compile evidence to address the question of whether the Food Stamp Program could do more to encourage healthful food choices.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective-Making Healthy Food Choices Easier: Ideas From Behavioral Economics

    EIB-29-7, September 27, 2007

    With obesity the most prevalent nutrition problem facing Americans at all economic levels, promoting diets that provide adequate nutrition without too many calories has become an important objective for the Food Stamp Program. Findings from behavioral economics suggest innovative, low-cost ways to improve the diet quality of food stamp participants without restricting their freedom of choice. Unlike more traditional economic interventions, such as changing prices or banning specific foods, the strategies explored in this brief can be targeted to those participants who want help making more healthful food choices.

  • Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002

    ERR-48, September 21, 2007

    ERS investigated the extent to which overweight and obesity have increased over time among food food and nutrition assistance recipients compared with nonrecipient groups.