Publications

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Decline in Consumer Use of Food Nutrition Labels, 1995-2006

    ERR-63, August 11, 2008

    ERS examines changes on consumers' use of nutrition labels on food items between 1995-96 and 2005-06 and finds that use has declined for most components of labels.

  • RIDGE Project Summaries, 2007: Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics Program

    AP-029, July 31, 2008

    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 that collaborate in 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 2006. The results of these research projects were presented at the RIDGE conference in October 2007. The projects include analyses of the influence of WIC on children's health at birth, impacts of Food Stamp Program participation on weight gained by expectant mothers, community influence on food assistance and dietary choices, and economic effects of a policy to provide government-subsidized price discounts for the purchase of fruits and vegetables by food stamp recipients. Several of the 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.

  • The National School Lunch Program Background, Trends, and Issues

    ERR-61, July 18, 2008

    The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the Nation's second largest food and nutrition assistance program. In 2006, it operated in over 101,000 public and nonprofit private schools and provided over 28 million low-cost or free lunches to children on a typical school day at a Federal cost of $8 billion for the year. This report provides background information on the NSLP, including historical trends and participant characteristics. It also addresses steps being taken to meet challenges facing administrators of the program, including tradeoffs between nutritional quality of foods served, costs, and participation, as well as between program access and program integrity.

  • Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005

    EIB-33, March 28, 2008

    ERS investigates trends in U.S. food consumption from 1970 to 2005. Results suggest many Americans still fall short of Federal dietary recommendations for whole grains, lower fat dairy products, and fruits and vegetables.

  • Food Stamps and Obesity: What Do We Know?

    EIB-34, March 21, 2008

    Results from reviewed studies indicate that for most Food Stamp Program participants, use of food stamp benefits does not result in an increase in Body Mass Index or the likelihood of being overweight or obese.

  • Are Lower Income Households Willing and Able To Budget for Fruits and Vegetables?

    ERR-54, January 07, 2008

    Households have a number of needs and wants that all compete for scarce resources. Given this situation, are low-income households, in particular, generally willing and able to budget for healthful foods like fruits and vegetables, or are other goods and services, including other foods, more of a priority? For six out of seven selected types of food, we find that households with an income below 130 percent of the poverty line spend less money than higher income households. However, we also find that these households, when given a small increase in income, will allocate more money to only two out of the seven products, beef and frozen prepared foods. These foods may be priorities for reasons of taste and convenience. For additional money to be allocated to fruits and vegetables, a household's income needs to be slightly greater than 130 percent of the poverty line.

  • Informing Food and Nutrition Assistance Policy: 10 Years of Research at ERS

    MP-1598, December 06, 2007

    Since 1998, Congress has provided funds to ERS to study and evaluate the Nation's domestic food and nutrition assistance programs. ERS has become the premier source of food and nutrition assistance research in the United States, sponsoring over 600 publications on a wide range of topics related to food and nutrition assistance. This report, prepared at the 10-year anniversary of the FANRP program, highlights some of the key research conducted during the program's first decade.

  • The U.S. Grain Consumption Landscape: Who Eats Grain, in What Form, Where, and How Much?

    ERR-50, November 26, 2007

    ERS compared consumption of refined and whole grains with recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, considering the consumers' social, economic, and demographic characteristics.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2006

    ERR-49, November 14, 2007

    Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2006, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (10.9 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year. About one-third of food insecure households (4.0 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security-meaning that the food intake of one or more adults 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 essentially unchanged from those in 2005. The typical food-secure household spent 31 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition. Just over half 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 USDA's annual Food Security Survey.

  • 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.