Publications

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  • Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods

    EIB-78, June 27, 2011

    Although healthy foods can be affordable, individuals may have an economic incentive to consume a less healthful diet if less healthy foods are relatively cheaper. ERS examines whether healthy foods generally cost more than less healthy options and whether price differences vary across the country.

  • The WIC Fruit and Vegetable Cash Voucher: Does Regional Price Variation Affect Buying Power?

    EIB-75, May 04, 2011

    The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods to low-income women, infants, and children at nutritional risk. Since October 2009, WIC packages have included a fixed-value voucher for purchasing fruits and vegetables. Although this should help increase fruit and vegetable consumption for all WIC participants, regional price variation could lead to different buying power-and nutritional benefits-across the country. Using 2004-06 Nielsen Homescan data, the authors examine the prices of fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned) in 26 metropolitan market areas to determine how price variations affect the voucher's purchasing power. The authors find that the 20 most commonly purchased fruits and vegetables cost 30-70 percent more in the highest priced market areas than in the lowest, implying that WIC participants in more expensive areas might be able to purchase fewer fruits and vegetables than those living where these items are cheaper. The lowest priced market for fruits and vegetables was the Nashville, Birmingham, Memphis, and Louisville area, while the highest was San Francisco.

  • Food Security Improved Following the 2009 ARRA Increase in SNAP Benefits

    ERR-116, April 26, 2011

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 increased benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) and expanded SNAP eligibility for jobless adults without children. One goal of the program changes was to improve the food security of low-income households. We find that food expenditures by low-income households increased by about 5.4 percent and their food insecurity declined by 2.2 percentage points from 2008 to 2009. Food security did not improve for households with incomes somewhat above the SNAP eligibility range. These findings, based on data from the nationally representative Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, suggest that the ARRA SNAP enhancements contributed substantially to improvements for low-income households.

  • How Retail Beef and Bread Prices Respond to Changes in Ingredient and Input Costs

    ERR-112, February 24, 2011

    The extent to which cost changes pass through a vertically organized production process depends on the value added by each producer in the chain as well as a number of other organizational and marketing factors at each stage of production. Using 36 years of monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics price indices data (1972-2008), we model pass-through behavior for beef and bread, two retail food items with different levels of processing. Both the farm-to-wholesale and wholesale-to-retail price responses are modeled to allow for the presence of structural breaks in the underlying long-term relationships between price series. Broad differences in price behavior are found not only between food categories (retail beef prices respond more to farm-price changes than do retail bread prices) but also across stages in the supply chain. While farm-to-wholesale relationships generally appear to be symmetric, retail prices have a more complicated response behavior. For both bread and beef, the passthrough from wholesale to retail is weaker than that from farm to wholesale.

  • A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs

    ERR-114, February 24, 2011

    A new and expanded ERS food dollar series provides a more detailed answer to the question of where our food dollars go (e.g., the farm share and the share among the various supply chain industry groups)

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2020

    OCE-111, February 14, 2011

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2020. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost?

    EIB-71, February 01, 2011

    ERS used retail scanner data to estimate the average prices of 153 fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. The report includes estimates of the cost of meeting the recommendations of USDA's recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines

  • 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

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

    AP-050, November 10, 2010

    The Senate Report 111-039 accompanying S. 1406, the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) prepare and publish a report regarding consumer perceptions of canned fruits and vegetables. In the absence of consumer surveys, the report relies on consumption and spending estimates to reveal attitudes of the U.S. population toward canned produce. This report updates Canned Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in the United States: Report to Congress (October 2008), using more recent data through 2008, where available.

  • 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.

  • New Database Shows Substantial Geographic Food Price Variation

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    Food prices vary across the United States, but until now, a data set that provides a consistent and statistically detailed measure of food prices across geographic markets did not exist.

  • 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.

  • Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: Are Coupons More Effective than Pure Price Discounts?

    ERR-96, June 03, 2010

    ERS compares the potential effectiveness of coupons versus price discounts in encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption among participants in Federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

  • 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.

  • Cross-Price Elasticities of Demand Across 114 Countries

    TB-1925, March 19, 2010

    This report presents a simple methodology for calculating cross-price elasticities across countries, using the Frisch own-price elasticity. Cross-price elasticities are calculated for 9 major consumption categories from the 1996 International Comparison Program data across 114 countries. The consumption categories are: food, beverage, and tobacco; clothing and footwear; education; gross rent, fuel, and power; house furnishings and operations; medical care; recreation; transport and communications; and "other" items. Additionally, cross-price elasticities are calculated and reported for a two-good demand system of food and nonfood. The elasticity estimates from this report are the only available consistent cross-country cross-price elasticity estimates across this large a number of countries and consumption categories.

  • 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.

  • Consumers’ Response to the 2006 Foodborne Illness Outbreak Linked to Spinach

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Consumers responded to the FDA's September 2006 warnings to avoid eating spinach because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. While spinach expenditures fell, consumers turned to other leafy greens as substitutes. The longer term drop in retail expenditures on fresh spinach products was almost matched by gains in expenditures on other leafy greens.

  • 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.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2019

    OCE-2010-1, February 11, 2010

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2019. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Comparing Two Sources of Retail Meat Price Data

    ERR-88, November 17, 2009

    The livestock industry uses information on meat prices at different stages in the marketing system to make production decisions. When grocery stores began using electronic scanners to capture prices paid for meat, it was assumed that the livestock industry could capitalize on having these point-of-sale data available as a measure of the value of its products. This report compares scanner price data with publicly available data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of the two data types, scanner data provide more information about retail meat markets, including a wider variety of meat-cut prices, multiple measures of an average price, the volume of sales, and the relative importance of discounted prices. The scanner data sample, however, is not statistically drawn, and complicated processing requirements delay its release, which makes scanner data less useful than BLS data for analyzing current market conditions.