Michele Ver Ploeg

Michele Ver Ploeg

Branch Chief


Michele (Shelly) Ver Ploeg is the chief of the Food Assistance Branch in the Food Economics Division at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). Shelly is responsible for managing and directing research on USDA’s domestic food and nutrition assistance programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meal programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and food security. Shelly has conducted research on how food assistance programs and the environment in which the programs operate affect food consumption and dietary outcomes of low-income individuals and families. She led a Congressionally mandated study on access to affordable and nutritious foods and conducted research on the extent and consequences of limited store access.


Shelly has been at ERS for 18 years, first as a research economist and has held several positions in the agency. She has been the chief of the Food Assistance Branch for 4 years. She started her career as a study director for the Committee on National Statistics at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and has held positions at George Washington University and at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.


Shelly has a Ph.D. in policy analysis and management from Cornell University and a B.A. in economics from Central College.

Professional Affiliations

  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
  • American Statistical Association
  • Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

Selected Publications

Ver Ploeg, M., Scharadin, B., Miller, L., Gonzalez, J., & Odom, R. (2024). Utilizing the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey to calculate a household-level food environment measure (Report No. TB-1964). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Ismail, M., Ver Ploeg, M., Chomitz, V., & Wilde, P. (2023). Examining the role of the excess shelter deduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit formula. Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy, 46(1).

Boehm, R., Ver Ploeg, M., Wilde, P., & Cash, S. (2019). Greenhouse gas emissions, total food spending and diet quality by share of household food spending on red meat: Results from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households. Public Health Nutrition, 1–13.

Rhone, A., Ver Ploeg, M., Dicken, C., Williams, R., & Breneman, V. (2017). Low-income and low-supermarket-access census tracts, 2010–2015 (Report No. EIB-165). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Fitzpatrick, K., Greenhalgh-Stanley, N., & Ver Ploeg, M. (2015). The impact of food deserts on food insufficiency and SNAP participation among the elderly. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 98(1), 19–40.