Publications

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  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2009

    ERR-108, November 10, 2010

    The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2009 was 14.7 percent. Though that level is essentially unchanged from 2008, the levels in both years are the highest recorded since monitoring began in 1995

  • How Much Lower Are Prices at Discount Stores? An Examination of Retail Food Prices

    ERR-105, October 22, 2010

    ERS compares prices for a wide range of foods in traditional retail food stores and nontraditional discount stores. Findings show nontraditional retailers offer lower prices than traditional stores, even controlling for brand and package size.

  • 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.

  • Food Security Assessment, 2010-20

    GFA-21, July 08, 2010

    Food security in 70 developing countries is estimated to have improved between 2009 and 2010, due in part to economic recovery in many of these countries. Over the next decade, the overall number of food-insecure people is projected to decline slightly.

  • Several School Policies Are Associated With Less Fat in School Lunches

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2010

    Using data from a 2007 study sponsored by USDA's FNS, ERS found that fat content of school lunches is correlated with certain school policies and characteristics. For example, schools that served the lowest fat lunches offered only low-fat milk and/or participated in at least one program promoting purchases of locally grown food or fresh produce.

  • 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.

  • Eating and Health Module User's Guide

    AP-047, April 05, 2010

    The Eating & Health (EH) Module of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) collects additional data to analyze relationships among time use patterns and eating patterns, nutrition, and obesity; food and nutrition assistance programs; and grocery shopping and meal preparation. This User's Guide provides detailed guidance to researchers on how to use the EH Module to measure time use and eating patterns.

  • Energy Use in the U.S. Food System

    ERR-94, March 10, 2010

    Energy is an important input in growing, processing, packaging, distributing, storing, preparing, serving, and disposing of food. Analysis using the two most recent U.S. benchmark input-output accounts and a national energy data system shows that in the United States, use of energy along the food chain for food purchases by or for U.S. households increased between 1997 and 2002 at more than six times the rate of increase in total domestic energy use. This increase in food-related energy flows is over 80 percent of energy flow increases nationwide over the period. The use of more energy-intensive technologies throughout the U.S. food system accounted for half of this increase, with the remainder attributed to population growth and higher real (inflation-adjusted) per capita food expenditures. A projection of food-related energy use based on 2007 total U.S. energy consumption and food expenditure data and the benchmark 2002 input-output accounts suggests that food-related energy use as a share of the national energy budget grew from 14.4 percent in 2002 to an estimated 15.7 percent in 2007.

  • Americans Are More Realistic About the Quality of Their Diets

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Presumably, Americans are more realistic today about their diet quality because they have greater knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet. In 2005-06, 79 percent of U.S. adults had heard of the Food Guide Pyramid, up from 33 percent in 1994, and 51 percent knew about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, up from 30 percent in 1994.

  • SNAP Benefits and Eating Out: Wise Choices Required

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Most U.S. households make poorer nutritional choices than those recommended by dietary guidelines. Allowing for SNAP benefits to be spent on food away from home, which is generally nutritionally inferior to food at home, may help SNAP participants balance time constraints and other needs but could also make it harder for them to eat healthy.

  • Birth Year Affects Demand for At-Home Fresh Vegetables

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Spending less money for fresh vegetables at grocery stores suggests that younger generations are buying smaller quantities, or purchasing less expensive vegetables, or both. If younger Americans are consuming less at-home fresh vegetables, the quality of their diets may suffer unless they consume more vegetables in prepared foods or when eating out.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2008

    ERR-83, November 16, 2009

    Eighty-five percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2008, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.6 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security-meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were up from 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, in 2007, and were the highest recorded since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted. The typical food-secure household spent 31 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition. Fifty-five percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2008 survey.

  • RIDGE Project Summaries, 2008: Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program

    AP-040, September 30, 2009

    This report summarizes research findings from the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program (RIDGE), formerly known as the Small Grants Program. The Economic Research Service created the program in 1998 to stimulate new and innovative research on food and nutrition assistance issues and to broaden the network of social scientists investigating the food and nutrition challenges that exist across communities, regions, and States. The report includes summaries of the research findings of projects that were awarded 1-year grants in summer and fall 2007. The results of these research projects were presented at the RIDGE conference in October 2008. The projects include analyses of WIC vendor access and fruit and vegetable availability, effects of food insecurity on the development of infants and toddlers, administrative data to evaluate CACFP in family child care homes, the economics of the Thrifty Food Plan, and food stamp use among the elderly. Several projects focus on specific populations such as immigrants, Native Americans, or people living in the rural South. Disclaimer: The studies summarized herein were conducted under research grants originating with the Economic Research Service. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ERS or USDA.

  • 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.

  • Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Low-income households that receive maximum food assistance benefits usually can afford a healthy diet; others may have more difficulty.

  • Canned Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in the United States: A Report to the United States Congress

    AP-032, September 12, 2008

    In response to Senate Report 110-134, accompanying S. 1859, the 2008 the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, ERS researchers published a report about consumer perceptions and consumption of canned fruits and vegetables using USDA's food consumption survey data, Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey data, and the ERS Food Availability Data System. If current trends prevail, total fruit and vegetable availability will continue to increase but canned fruits and vegetables will account for a declining share of that total. However, there are several divergent and offsetting forces that make it difficult to predict the future demand for canned produce.