Publications

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  • The Influence of Food Store Access on Grocery Shopping and Food Spending

    EIB-180, October 18, 2017

    Low access to foodstores such as supermarkets may mean that households rely on nearby convenience stores or fast-food restaurants that do not offer a variety of healthful foods.

  • ERS’s Updated Food Access Research Atlas Shows an Increase in Low-Income and Low-Supermarket Access Areas in 2015

    Amber Waves, February 06, 2017

    ERS’s Food Access Research Atlas provides a measure of neighborhood access to healthy, affordable food for the entire Nation and allows users to map low-income and low-supermarket access census tracts in 2010 and 2015.

  • Low-Income and Low-Supermarket-Access Census Tracts, 2010-2015

    EIB-165, January 18, 2017

    Across three proximity measures, supermarket access improved from 2010 to 2015 though income measures did not, resulting in more low-income, low-access census tracts. Over the same period, vehicle availability for households decreased

  • Comparing National Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) Data With Other National Food Surveys’ Data

    EIB-157, July 27, 2016

    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.

  • Recent Evidence on the Effects of Food Store Access on Food Choice and Diet Quality

    Amber Waves, May 02, 2016

    Recent studies show that the effect of food store access on dietary quality may be limited. Most consumers—both low-income and higher income—consider store characteristics other than proximity in deciding where to shop, as they seek the products, prices, and other features they value.

  • 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.

  • Restricting Sugar-Sweetened Beverages From SNAP Purchases Not Likely To Lower Consumption

    Amber Waves, March 02, 2015

    To reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, some policymakers and nutrition advocates argue that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits should not be allowed to be used for purchasing these beverages.

  • Prices Play Greater Role Than Access in Food-Purchase Decisions for SNAP Households

    Amber Waves, February 02, 2015

    Lack of access to large grocery stores and other sources of healthy food options has been thought to be linked to obesity and other diet-related diseases. ERS researchers, however, found that food prices have more effect than food store access on purchase decisions by participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

  • USDA’s Food Assistance Programs: Legacies of the War on Poverty

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2014

    USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs—many of which were conceived half a century ago—are still some of the Federal Government’s most important means of fighting poverty and improving the economic well-being of needy Americans.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Leads to Modest Changes in Diet Quality

    ERR-147, April 24, 2013

    ERS examined survey data to determine if the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) changes the diet quality of program participants, and to compare the diet quality of low-income adult participants and nonparticipants in SNAP.

  • Different Measures of Food Access Inform Different Solutions

    Amber Waves, March 04, 2013

    ERS recently updated several national measures of food access, providing estimates of the number of individuals and geographic areas with limited access to healthful and affordable food. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of low-income individuals living more than 1 mile from a supermarket increased, but more individuals had access to vehicles in 2010.

  • Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Updated Estimates of Distance to Supermarkets Using 2010 Data

    ERR-143, November 28, 2012

    ERS updates data on spatial access to affordable, healthy food, measuring distance to the nearest supermarkets for the U.S. population and considering factors like vehicle ownership and income level of households and areas.

  • Characteristics and Influential Factors of Food Deserts

    ERR-140, August 31, 2012

    ERS examines the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of census tracts that have been identified as food deserts-areas where residents have limited access to healthy, affordable food.

  • SNAP Benefits Alleviate the Intensity and Incidence of Poverty

    Amber Waves, June 05, 2012

    Adding SNAP benefits to family income reduces the poverty rate and leads to even greater reductions in depth and severity of poverty, particularly among children. The antipoverty effect of SNAP was especially strong in 2009, when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased SNAP benefits levels.

  • Mapping Food Deserts in the United States

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2011

    ERS's Food Desert Locator is a mapping tool that presents a spatial overview of where food deserts are located and provides selected characteristics of the populations that live in them.

  • Access to Affordable, Nutritious Food Is Limited in “Food Deserts”

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    A small percentage of U.S. households live in “food deserts,” where access to a supermarket or large grocery store is a problem. Low-income residents of these neighborhoods and those who lack transportation tend to rely more on smaller neighborhood stores that may not carry healthy foods or offer them only at higher prices, which increases the risks of poor diets or food insecurity.

  • Changing Participation in Food Assistance Programs Among Low-Income Children After Welfare Reform

    ERR-92, February 19, 2010

    In 1996, the safety net for poor households with children fundamentally changed when Federal legislation replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This study investigates participation in, and benefits received from, AFDC/TANF and food assistance programs, before and after the legislation, for children in low-income households (income below 300 percent of the Federal poverty line). The results show that, between 1990 and 2004, the share of children receiving food stamp benefits declined, most notably among children in the poorest households (income below 50 percent of the Federal poverty line). The share of children receiving benefits from the school meals programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) rose, mainly among children in low-income households with income above the Federal poverty line. Overall, the share of children in households that received benefits from AFDC/TANF or food assistance programs grew from 35 percent to 52 percent. However, the net result of these changes is that average total inflation-adjusted household benefits from all programs examined declined. The decline was largest among children in the poorest households.

  • WIC Not Linked to Overweight in Children

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    ERS research shows no relationship between participation in WIC and body weight for children ages 2-5, with one exception. In 1988-94, preschool girls from moderate-income families were more likely to be at risk of overweight than WIC participants. This difference was no longer evident in 1999-2006.

  • Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food-Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress

    AP-036, June 25, 2009

    This report fills a request for a study of food deserts-areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food-from the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The report summarizes findings of a national-level assessment of the extent and characteristics of food deserts, analysis of the consequences of food deserts, lessons learned from related Federal programs, and a discussion of policy options for alleviating the effects of food deserts. Overall, findings show that a small percentage of consumers are constrained in their ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation.

  • WIC and the Battle Against Childhood Overweight

    EB-13, April 01, 2009

    One of the most worrisome aspects of the growing tide of obesity in the United States is the high rate of overweight among children. Over one in five young children, ages 2 to 5, are at risk of being overweight. The number of children at risk of being overweight has grown in the past two decades, as has the number of young children whose families participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Are these increases connected? The answer appears to be "No." However, being from a low-income family, especially a low-income, Mexican-American family, does raise the probability of a child's being at risk for overweight. This brief examines trends in the relationship between WIC participation and weight status by updating the results of Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002 (ERR-48) to include data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).