Publications

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  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective-Stretching the Food Stamp Dollar: Regional Price Differences Affect Affordability of Food

    EIB-29-2, September 27, 2007

    Significant regional differences in food prices affect how far food stamp benefits can go toward enhancing the diet of low-income consumers in a given region. In regions where average food prices exceed the national average, food stamp benefits may not provide the same level of coverage as the same benefit would in below-average-price regions. This report measures average prices paid across U.S. regions. Results show that a household made up of a family of four in the East or West could spend $32-$48 more per month for a similar amount of food than the average U.S. household, whereas a household in the South and Midwest could spend $12-28 less per month than the average U.S. household.

  • 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.

  • Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002

    ERR-48, September 21, 2007

    ERS investigated the extent to which overweight and obesity have increased over time among food food and nutrition assistance recipients compared with nonrecipient groups.

  • An Online Cost Calculator for Estimating the Economic Cost of Illness Due to Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC) O157 Infections

    EIB-28, September 13, 2007

    Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157 is a significant cause of foodborne illness in the United States. ERS estimated the economic cost of illness due to this pathogen-$405.2 million (in 2003 dollars)-using the most recent estimate (1997) of the annual number of STEC O157 cases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and medical and cost data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network. CDC is currently updating its estimate of annual cases. As new information becomes available, the ERS online Foodborne Illness Cost Calculator enables users to review and modify the assumptions underlying the STEC O157 cost estimate, such as the number of cases, and then recalculate the cost, adjusted for inflation for any year from 1997 to 2006. The potential utility of the calculator was demonstrated by assuming that the incidence of STEC O157 had declined and then estimating the cost for a smaller number of cases.

  • Food Spending Depends on Age and Income

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    By 2030, about 24 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. An aging population will affect how much and what types of food are purchased.

  • 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.

  • Food Security Assessment, 2006

    GFA-18, June 28, 2007

    The number of hungry people in the 70 lower income countries covered in this report rose between 2005 and 2006, from 804 million to 849 million. However, the food distribution gap-an indicator of food access-declined, which means that, although more people are vulnerable to food insecurity, the intensity was less in 2006 than in 2005. By 2016, the number of hungry people is projected to decline in all regions, except Sub-Saharan Africa. The average nutrition gap, the indicator of food availability, was 13.5 million tons (grain equivalent) in 2006 and is expected to increase to 14 million tons by 2016. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 85 percent of this gap, the low-income countries of Asia for only 14 percent, and the low-income countries of Latin America and the Caribbean for the remaining 1 percent. The average nutrition gap was much smaller than the distribution gap, which takes into account unequal purchasing power within countries. The distribution gap was an estimated 27 million tons in 2006 for all 70 countries, decreasing to close to 26 million tons by 2016.

  • Could Behavioral Economics Help Improve Diet Quality for Nutrition Assistance Program Participants?

    ERR-43, June 01, 2007

    The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers.

  • The U.S. Food Marketing System: Recent Developments, 1997-2006

    ERR-42, May 31, 2007

    The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers.

  • Characteristics of Low-Income Households With Very Low Food Security: An Analysis of the USDA GPRA Food Security Indicator

    EIB-25, May 31, 2007

    ERS provides information on the composition, location, employment, education, and other characteristics of households that experienced very low food security.

  • Who Has Time To Cook? How Family Resources Influence Food Preparation

    ERR-40, May 04, 2007

    The relationship of household characteristics and time resources to the amount of time spent preparing food is relevant for the design of food assistance programs.

  • Food Spending in American Households, 2003-04

    EIB-23, March 13, 2007

    Using data from the most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, ERS presents information on nationwide urban food expenditure patterns by select demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

  • Vegetables and Melons Outlook: March 2007

    VGS-31901, March 06, 2007

    Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in the United States and fresh-market carrot consumption has been increasing over the past few decades. Using a combination of ACNielsen Homescan panel data and USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, this article examines where and how much fresh and processed carrots are eaten and links this consumption to various economic, social, and demographic characteristics of consumers. The analysis indicates that per capita carrot consumption is greatest in the East and Central regions of the country. About 80 percent of fresh-market carrots are purchased at retail and consumed at home, with the majority consisting of fresh-cut (including baby) carrots.

  • The 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes' Effect on Food Stamp Program Caseloads and Benefits Issued

    ERR-37, February 07, 2007

    In fall 2005, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma devastated areas along much of the Gulf Coast resulting in large increases in food stamp caseloads and benefits issued. In November 2005, the number of people receiving food stamps reached a record 29.7 million, or about 4 million more participants than just 3 months earlier. Most of the increase in caseloads occurred in the Gulf Coast States that were hardest hit by the hurricanes-Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The hurricanes' impact on caseloads in these States, in terms of both magnitude and duration, varied widely. States that received large numbers of evacuees from hurricane-affected areas also experienced disproportionate increases in caseloads relative to the other States. This study estimates that the hurricanes increased total food stamp benefits issued by about $1.2 billion, with most of it going to people located in the five Gulf Coast States.

  • The Impact of Big-Box Stores on Retail Food Prices and the Consumer Price Index

    ERR-33, December 29, 2006

    This report focuses on retail food market dynamics and how they affect food price variation across store formats. The differences in prices across store formats are especially noteworthy when compared with standard measures of food price inflation over time. Over the past 20 years, annual food price changes, as measured by the CPI, have averaged just 3 percent per year, while food prices for similar products can vary by more than 10 percent across store formats at any one point in time. Since the current CPI for food does not fully take into account the lower price option of nontraditional retailers, a gap exists between price changes as measured using scanner data versus the CPI estimate, even for the relatively low food inflation period of 1998-2003. This study estimates that the CPI for dairy products overstates food price change by 0.5 to 2.5 percentage points per year for dairy, eggs, and butter/margarine.

  • Possible Implications for U.S. Agriculture From Adoption of Select Dietary Guidelines

    ERR-31, November 20, 2006

    To help Americans meet nutritional requirements while staying within caloric recommendations, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. This report provides one view of the potential implications for U.S. agriculture if Americans changed their current consumption patterns to meet some of those guidelines. For Americans to meet the fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain recommendations, domestic crop acreage would need to increase by an estimated 7.4 million harvested acres, or 1.7 percent of total U.S. cropland in 2002. To meet the dairy guidelines, consumption of milk and milk products would have to increase by 66 percent; an increase of that magnitude would likely require an increase in the number of dairy cows as well as increased feed grains and, possibly, increased acreage devoted to dairy production.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2005

    ERR-29, November 15, 2006

    Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2005, meaning that they had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households were food insecure at least some time during that year. The prevalence of food insecurity declined from 11.9 percent of households in 2004 to 11.0 percent in 2005, while the prevalence of very low food security remained unchanged at 3.9 percent. This report, based on data from the December 2005 food security survey, provides the most recent statistics on the food security of U.S. households, as well as on how much they spent for food and the extent to which food-insecure households participated in Federal and community food assistance programs.

  • Let's Eat Out: Americans Weigh Taste, Convenience, and Nutrition

    EIB-19, October 17, 2006

    Whether eating out or buying carry-out, Americans are consuming more and more of their calories from full-service and fast-food restaurant fare. The share of daily caloric intake from food purchased and/or eaten away from home increased from 18 percent to 32 percent between the late 1970s and the middle 1990s, and the away-from-home market grew to account for about half of total food expenditures in 2004, up from 34 percent in 1974. Analysis of a survey of U.S. consumers indicates that respondents want convenience and an enjoyable dining experience, but the desire for health also plays a role as does diet-health knowledge.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2006 Midyear Report

    EIB-6-3, September 15, 2006

    USDA expenditures for its 15 food assistance programs totaled $27.7 billion during the first half of fiscal 2006 (October 2005-March 2006), a 7-percent increase over the first half of fiscal 2005. Five programs-the Food Stamp Program; the National School Lunch Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the School Breakfast Program; and the Child and Adult Care Food Program-accounted for 96 percent of USDA's total expenditures for food assistance. This report uses preliminary data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service to examine trends in the programs at the midpoint of fiscal 2006. It also summarizes a number of ERS research reports on the Food Stamp Program released in recent years that may help inform discussions of the 2007 reauthorization of the farm bill.

  • Nutrient Adequacy of Children Participating in WIC

    EB-8, April 20, 2006

    USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods to participants, in most cases through vouchers for retail purchase of foods designated as approved by the program. WIC food packages were initially designed to include foods rich in nutrients that were lacking in the diets of low-income participants. This brief summarizes two recent ERS-sponsored studies that provide new assessments of nutrient intakes of WIC children, income-eligible children not participating in the program, and children ineligible for the program.