Michele Ver Ploeg

Michele Ver Ploeg

Branch Chief


Michele (Shelly) Ver Ploeg is 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 on 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 spent 16 years at ERS, from 2004-2020—first as a research economist, then as the chief of the Food Assistance Branch, and lastly as the acting assistant administrator of ERS. She rejoins ERS after a year as the Food Policy Institute director at George Washington University and a year as a senior economist at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. She started her career as a study director for the Committee on National Statistics at The National Academies.


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

Scharadin, B., M. Ver Ploeg, C. Dicken. 2021. Geographic Boundary Definitions and the Robustness of Common Food Retail Environment Measures. Annals of the American Association of Geographers. November 18, 2021.

Ollinger, M., M. Ver Ploeg, and C. Dicken. 2021. Super Stores’ Impact on the Availability of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Approved Stores, ERR-291, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June 2021.

Ismail, M., M. Ver Ploeg, V.R. Chomitz, and P. Wilde. “Differences in food-at-home spending for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and non-SNAP households given geographic price variation,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, July;120(7):1142–1150.e12. March 24, 2020.

Boehm, R., M. Ver Ploeg, P. Wilde, & S. Cash. “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. doi:10.1017/S136898001800407X. March 28, 2019.

Fan, L., K. Baylis, C. Gundersen and M. Ver Ploeg. “Does a nutritious diet cost more in food deserts?,” Agricultural Economics. Published June 26, 2018.

Rhone, A., M. Ver Ploeg, C. Dicken, R. Williams, and V. Breneman. Low-Income and Low-Supermarket-Access Census Tracts, 2010–2015, EIB-165, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, January 2017.

Fitzpatrick, K., N. Greenhalgh-Stanley and M. Ver Ploeg. “The Impact of Food Deserts on Food Insufficiency and SNAP Participation among the Elderly,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Published on Advance Access Alert, September, 2015.

Ver Ploeg, M., L. Mancino, J.E. Todd, D.M. Clay, and B. Scharadin. Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel To Get There? Initial Findings from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, EIB-138, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, March, 2015.

Ver Ploeg, M., P. Dutko, and V. Breneman, "Measuring Food Access and Food Deserts for Policy Purposes," Applied Economic Policy and Perspectives, 37(2): 205–25, November, 2014.

Todd, J. and M. Ver Ploeg, "Caloric Beverage Intake among Adult Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participants," American Journal of Public Health, 104(9):e80–e85, September 2014.

Gregory, C., M. Ver Ploeg, M. Andrews, and A. Coleman-Jensen. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Leads to Modest Changes in Diet Quality, ERR-147, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April, 2013.

Ver Ploeg, M., and others. Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences, Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June, 2009.

Ver Ploeg, M. and C.F. Citro, "Poverty Measurement: Orshansky's Original Measures and the Development of Alternatives," Review of Agricultural Economics, 30(3):581–90, 2008.