Food, Nutrition, and Food Safety
(Selected research findings from FY21)
An estimated 89.5 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2020. The remaining 10.5 percent were food insecure at least some time during the year, unchanged from 10.5 percent in 2019. Although the prevalence of food insecurity for all households remained unchanged, ERS researchers find statistically significant changes for some population subgroups. The prevalence of food insecurity in 2020 increased for all households with children from 13.6 percent in 2019 to 14.8 percent, and was also higher for married-couple families with children. The prevalence of food insecurity also increased for households with Black, non-Hispanic householders or reference persons from 19.1 percent in 2019 to 21.7 percent in 2020 and was higher for households in the South. The ERS food security statistics are widely recognized as the benchmark for measuring food security in the United States, and support decision making on USDA food and nutrition assistance programs.
The Food Access Research Atlas is a mapping tool that allows users to investigate multiple indicators of food store access. The atlas allows users to create maps showing food access indicators by census tract using different measures and indicators of supermarket accessibility, view indicators of food access for selected sub-populations, compare 2019 data with 2015 data, and download the data. A new interactive guide provides an overview of its measures and how to use them.
This report documents the extent and severity of food insecurity among working-age veterans ages 18–64, who made up 76 percent of the U.S. veteran population in 2019. Food insecurity occurs when individuals have limited or uncertain access to enough food because they lack economic resources. Food insecurity varies among working-age veteran subpopulations defined by age, area of residence, disability status, educational attainment, gender, geographic region, household composition, income, labor force participation status, race and ethnicity, and military service history. ERS researchers compared food insecurity among working-age veterans and nonveterans to examine the association between military service and food insecurity. After adjusting for observable differences between working-age veterans and nonveterans, the report finds veterans are 7.4 percent more likely to live in a food-insecure household.
This COVID-19 Working Paper investigates the effects of economic recessions and changes in local economic conditions on the growth of food-at-home and food-away-from-home sales at the county level and estimates the likely impacts of the COVID-19-induced recession on food sales. On average, the recessionary effects of COVID-19 are likely to increase the growth of food-at-home sales by 1 percent and decrease the growth of food-away-from-home sales by 0.9 percent. These results indicate the recessionary effects of COVID-19 on food sales are small compared to the pandemic and public health effects of COVID-19 on food sales.
Sales taxes on foods sold at grocery stores and/or restaurants exist in almost every county in the United States. By combining county-level sales tax data with the USDA 2012–13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey , ERS researchers examined the association between both types of taxes and a household’s spending on grocery and restaurant foods for three groups: USDA, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, households that are eligible for SNAP but do not participate, and households that are not eligible for SNAP. The report found that among households eligible for SNAP but do not participate in the program, grocery taxes are associated with reduced spending on foods purchased for at-home consumption. No such association is found among the two other groups of households considered in this study, suggesting they are less sensitive to grocery taxes. SNAP households spend more on foods purchased for at-home consumption in communities with higher restaurant taxes.
ERS researchers examined the impact of new super store entries on the survival of existing traditional stores and the cost savings accruing to SNAP beneficiaries. They found no evidence that super store entry reduced the number of SNAP-approved stores. SNAP beneficiaries saved about $6,390 in SNAP benefits per year, per super store. If extended across all super stores, the savings would be about $108.6 million in 2015—0.26 percent of SNAP benefits—based on estimates over 2005–15 and the number of super stores in 2015.
ERS researchers present a new approach to estimating the relationship between consumption of specific foods and foodborne illness in the United States. The report applies this approach to the case of foodborne sporadic campylobacteriosis illness. Most foodborne illness is sporadic and not part of a widespread outbreak. Foodborne Campylobacter infections are widely thought to be linked to chicken and are highly seasonal, primarily driven by temperature. The association between seasonality and the rate of Campylobacter infections is stronger than the association with temperature.