Publications

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  • 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.

  • Shopping For, Preparing, and Eating Food: Where Does the Time Go?

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    In 2006-07, SNAP participants spent 47 minutes per person per day cooking, serving, and cleaning up after meals, versus 40 minutes for low-income nonparticipants and 30 minutes for higher income individuals. SNAP participants also spent less time eating and drinking per day than low-income nonparticipants and higher income individuals.

  • 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.

  • A Comparison of Household Food Security in Canada and the United States

    ERR-67, December 29, 2008

    Using nationally representative surveys from the United States and Canada, ERS compares rates of food insecurity in economic and demographic subgroups of the two countries.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2008

    Successful policies to mitigate the rise in obesity and other diet-related health conditions in the U.S. depend on an understanding of Americans' eating patterns. Eating patterns encompass not only what and how much people eat, but also when and where they eat, how long they spend eating or snacking, and whether they dine alone or with others.

  • Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2008

    About 4 percent of U.S. households had very low food security at some time in 2006. Research findings suggest that a work-limiting disability substantially increases the risk of food insecurity for low-income families. Thirty-seven percent of all low-income households with very low food security had at least one working-age adult who was unable to work because of a disability.

  • 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.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective—Nutrition Information: Can It Improve the Diets of Low-Income Households?

    EIB-29-6, September 03, 2007

    The Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE) component of the Food Stamp Program is intended to improve the food choices, diet quality, and health of program participants. This brief discusses the FSNE program, how it operates, and how it has grown over time. The brief also considers the challenges of nutrition education in general and discusses the research and evaluation needs suggested by the findings.

  • How Low-Income Households Economize on Groceries

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2006

    ERS researchers investigated the food purchases of low-income shoppers in four product categories: breakfast cereals, cheese, meat/poultry, and fruits/vegetables. Comparisons across income groups show that the poor economize on food by buying more non-UPC coded foods on sale, a greater proportion of private-label (store-brand) products, and less expensive varieties of meats, fruits, and vegetables. These economizing practices allowed the poor to spend 4.8 percent less for food products from the four categories.

  • How Much Do Americans Pay for Fruits and Vegetables?

    AIB-790, July 20, 2004

    This analysis uses ACNielsen Homescan data on 1999 household food purchases from all types of retail outlets to estimate an annual retail price per pound and per serving for 69 forms of fruits and 85 forms of vegetables. Among the forms we priced, more than half were estimated to cost 25 cents or less per serving. Consumers can meet the recommendation of three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables daily for 64 cents.

  • Persistence and Change in the Food Security of Families With Children, 1997-99

    EFAN-04001, March 18, 2004

    This report uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the prevalence of and changes in food security between 1997 and 1999 among individual families with children younger than 13. About half of the families that were food insecure in 1997 became food secure by 1999, with the rest remaining food insecure. Meanwhile, about 7 percent of the families who were food secure in 1997 became food insecure in 1999. Although the food security status for individual families changed substantially, the prevalence of food insecurity was relatively stable: In both years, about 1 family in 10 was food insecure. The report also examines families' characteristics, income, and Food Stamp Program participation.

  • Issues in Food Assistance-The Emergency Food Assistance System: Findings from the Client Survey

    FANRR-26-10, September 30, 2003

    Food pantries and emergency kitchens play an important role in feeding America's low-income and needy populations. These organizations are part of the Emergency Food Assistance System (EFAS), a network run largely by private organizations with some Federal support. This issues brief summarizes findings from a survey of EFAS customers. The survey found that, during a typical month in 2001, food pantries served about 12.5 million people, and emergency kitchens served about 1.1 million people. The majority of EFAS households participate in a Federal food assistance program, including two-thirds of food-pantry clients and 45 percent of emergency-kitchen clients. However, a substantial number of EFAS households do not receive food stamps, though they appear to be eligible for them.

  • The Emergency Food Assistance System-Findings From the Client Survey: Final Report

    EFAN-03007, August 06, 2003

    During a typical month in 2001, food pantries served about 12.5 million people, and emergency kitchens served about 1.1 million people. Food pantries and emergency kitchens play an important role in feeding America's low-income and needy populations. These organizations are part of the Emergency Food Assistance System (EFAS), a network run largely by private organizations with some Federal support. This report presents findings from a national study of EFAS clients, which surveyed clients who received emergency food assistance from selected food pantries and emergency kitchens. The study finds that food pantries and emergency kitchens serve a diverse clientele, but that almost three-fourths of those served are food insecure. The majority of EFAS households receive Federal food assistance, including two-thirds of food pantry clients and 45 percent of emergency kitchen clients. However, a substantial number of EFAS households do not receive food stamps, though they appear to be eligible for them.

  • The Emergency Food Assistance System-Findings From the Provider Survey, Volume III: Survey Methodology

    EFAN-01008, October 01, 2002

    Findings of the first comprehensive government study of the Emergency Food Assistance System (EFAS) suggest that public and private food assistance may work in tandem to provide more comprehensive food assistance than either provides by itself. Five major types of organizations (emergency kitchens, food pantries, food banks, food rescue organizations, and emergency food organizations) operate in the EFAS. About 5,300 emergency kitchens provide more than 173 million meals a year, and 32,700 food pantries distribute about 2.9 billion pounds of food a year (roughly 2,200 million meals). Despite substantial amounts of food distributed by the system, the EFAS remains much smaller in scale than the Federal programs. The study, which was sponsored by USDA's Economic Research Service, provides detailed information about the system's operations and about each of the five types of organizations. This report summarizes the survey methodology for the study.

  • Socio-Economic Determinants of Food Insecurity in the United States: Evidence from the SIPP and CSFII Datasets

    TB-1869, October 20, 1998

    This bulletin reports empirical findings on the determinants of food insecurity in the United States, using data from the 1989-91 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals and the 1992 Survey of Income and Program Participation. Descriptive statistics on food insufficiency status (a proxy measure for the most food-insecure households) are presented from both surveys. Multivariate logit models are used to study the effects of socio-economic characteristics on food insufficiency. Households with higher incomes, homeowners, households headed by a high school graduate, and elderly households were less likely to be food insufficient. Holding other factors constant, those in poverty were over 3.5 times more likely to be food insufficient. However, there was not a one-to-one correspondence between poverty and food insufficiency, since over 40 percent of food-insufficient households were not poor and about 10 percent of poor households were food insufficient. Food stamp benefit levels were inversely associated with food insufficiency.