Research Projects and Publications

ERS and external researchers are actively involved in rigorous research, using FoodAPS data to examine food demand relationships that previously could not be investigated in detail because the requisite data did not exist. Research outcomes include journal articles, conference proceedings, ERS reports, Amber Waves publications, and working paper series.

A file of research using FoodAPS data is available: FoodAPS Research Citations (updated January 2023).
This file contains citations of research such as ERS reports, scholarly journal articles, working papers, and theses/dissertations.

ERS Publications

ERS reports

Food Taxes and Their Impacts on Food Spending

County-level sales tax data are combined with USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to examine the relationship between taxing groceries, taxing restaurant foods, and U.S. households' food spending patterns. Results are separately provided for SNAP participants, eligible non-participants, and other households. A report by Diansheng Dong and Hayden Stewart (September 2021).

Food Security and Food Purchase Quality Among Low-Income Households: Findings From the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS)

This report characterizes the difference in food purchase quality of low-income food-insecure and food-secure households using the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, a unique data collection fielded by ERS in partnership with the Food and Nutrition Service focused on household food purchase behavior. A report by Christian A. Gregory, Lisa Mancino, and Alisha Coleman-Jensen (August 2019).

USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): A New Look at Key Questions 10 Years After USDA Added Whole-Grain Bread to WIC Food Packages in 2009

In the report, ERS authors use a combination of store- and household-level purchase data to revisit key questions and help policymakers consider the latest recommendations to adjust WIC food packages. The ERS study focuses on bread as a case study of the whole-grain products that WIC participants may buy with their benefits. A report by Hayden Stewart, Jeffrey Hyman, Patrick W. McLaughlin, and Diansheng Dong (August 2019).

America’s Eating Habits: Food Away From Home

This report examines the growing availability of food away from home (FAFH). The report presents research on food choices and availability; nutrition and diet quality; and food policies, including menu labeling and food assistance programs. It also examines how FAFH choices relate to diet quality and socio-demographic characteristics. A report by Michelle Saksena, Abigail Okrent, Tobenna D. Anekwe, Clare Cho, Chris Dicken, Howard Elitzak, Joanne Guthrie, Karen Hamrick, Jeffrey Hyman, Young Jo, Biing-Hwan Lin, Lisa Mancino, Patrick W. McLaughlin, Ilya Rahkovsky, Katherine Ralston, Travis A. Smith, Hayden Stewart, Jessica E. Todd, and Charlotte Tuttle (September 2018).

Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods

ERS report examines how consumers' financial resources, time constraints, prices, and the food environment in which they live influence their purchases of restaurant meals and food from grocery stores. A report by Ilya Rahkovsky, Young Jo, and Andrea Carlson (June 2018).

The Association Between Nutrition Information Use and the Healthfulness of Food Acquisitions

This study constructs a Nutrition Information Use (NIU) index to summarize consumers' use of nutrition information and to test for a correlation between consumers' NIU and their purchases of more healthful food. The report then explores how this correlation compares for food at home and food away from home. A report by Eliana Zeballos and Tobenna D. Anekwe (April 2018).

Nutritional Quality of Foods Acquired by Americans: Findings From USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey

ERS investigates possible influences on the foods that Americans purchase or otherwise acquire, including consumer income levels, food sources (stores and other sources), food-source access, and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A report by Lisa Mancino, Joanne Guthrie, Michele Ver Ploeg, and Biing-Hwan Lin (February 2018).

USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey: Methodology for Imputing Missing Quantities To Calculate Healthy Eating Index-2010 Scores and Sort Foods Into ERS Food Groups

Responses from USDA's FoodAPS survey are used to measure the nutritional quality of household food acquisitions against the 2010 Healthy Eating Index. ERS researchers have developed a method for imputing missing food quantities used to assess effects of economic and socio-demographic factors on respondents' food intake. A report by Lisa Mancino, Jessica E. Todd, and Benjamin Scharadin (January 2018).

The Relationship Between Patronizing Direct-to-Consumer Outlets and a Household’s Demand for Fruits and Vegetables

This study uses data from USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to investigate whether patronizing farmers markets, roadside stands, and other direct-to-consumer (DTC) outlets increases a household’s spending for fruits and vegetables, including purchases at both DTC and non-direct food retailer. A report by Hayden Stewart and Diansheng Dong (January 2018).

The Influence of Food Store Access on Grocery Shopping and Food Spending

Low access to foodstores (such as supermarkets) may mean that households rely on nearby retailers, like convenience stores or fast-food restaurants, that do not offer a variety of healthful foods. The report assesses how the local food environment, household mobility, and assets are related to where households shop for food. A report by Michele Ver Ploeg, Elizabeth Larimore, and Parke E. Wilde (October 2017).

The Food-Spending Patterns of Households Participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Findings From USDA's FoodAPS

This study uses data from USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to compare food expenditures of SNAP households with those of eligible nonparticipant households and all households. The researchers examined variations in food spending by SNAP households' characteristics, the contribution of SNAP benefits to household food expenditures, and changes in food-spending patterns during the month after receiving benefits. A report by Laura Tiehen, Constance Newman, and John A. Kirlin (August 2017).

Using data from USDA’s 2012 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), this study examines characteristics of households with and without obese children to understand potential reasons behind the dissimilar risks of child obesity. A report by Young Jo (September 2017).

Food-at-Home Expenditures: Comparing Commercial Household Scanner Data From IRI and Government Survey Data

This ERS report compares proprietary household scanner data to nationally representative Federal Government survey data and finds that reported household food-at-home expenditures in commercial scanner data were lower than in two Federal Government surveys. The report details the comparison methodology and describes implications for using the commercial data in food economics research. A report by Megan Sweitzer, Derick Brown, Shawn Karns, Mary K. Muth, Peter Siegel, and Chen Zhen (September 2017).

Comparing National Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) Data With Other National Food Surveys’ Data

Data from USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), the first nationally representative household survey to collect data on foods purchased or acquired during a survey week, are compared with data from other national-level, food-related surveys. A report by Dawn Marie Clay, Michele Ver Ploeg, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Howard Elitzak, Christian Gregory, David Levin, Constance Newman, and Matthew P. Rabbitt. (July 2016).

Where Households Get Food in a Typical Week: Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS

Understanding where U.S. households acquire food, what they acquire, and what they pay is essential to identifying which food and nutrition policies might improve diet quality. This report uses USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to study where households acquired food during a 7-day period in 2012. A report by Jessica E. Todd and Benjamin Scharadin (July 2016).

WIC Household Food Purchases Using WIC Benefits or Paying Out of Pocket: A Case Study of Cold Cereal Purchases

WIC households incur no cost for WIC-approved foods, and economic theory suggests that they may be less sensitive to prices when using WIC benefits than when paying out of pocket. ERS examines this assumption in a case study of WIC households' choices in purchasing cold cereals. A report by Diansheng Dong, Hayden Stewart, Elizabeth Frazão, Andrea Carlson, and Jeffrey Hyman (May 2016).

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

This report compares food shopping patterns of (1) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to nonparticipant households, (2) participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to nonparticipants, and (3) food-insecure to food-secure households. A report by Michele Ver Ploeg, Lisa Mancino, Jessica E. Todd, Dawn Marie Clay, and Benjamin Scharadin (March 2015).

Published reports and articles based on FoodAPS data are also searchable in the ERS Food and Nutrition Assistance Research Reports Database.

Amber Waves articles

"How You Pay Influences the Share of Healthy Food You Buy"—by Eliana Zeballos (September 2020)

"Food Spending of Middle-Income Households Hardest Hit by the Great Recession" – by Clare Cho, Jessica E. Todd, and Michelle Saksena (September 2018).

"Supermarkets, Schools, and Social Gatherings: Where SNAP and Other U.S. Households Acquire Their Foods Correlates With Nutritional Quality"—by Lisa Mancino and Joanne Guthrie (February 2018).

"Households With at Least One Obese Child Differ in Several Ways From Those Without"—by Young Jo (December 2017).

"Nearly 30 Percent of the Times That USDA SNAP Households Acquire Food, the Food Is Free"—by Jessica E. Todd (November 2017).

"USDA’s FoodAPS: Providing Insights Into U.S. Food Demand and Food Assistance Programs"—by Jessica E. Todd, Laura Tiehen, and Dawn Marie Clay (August 2017).

"FoodAPS Data Now Available to the General Public"—by Elizabeth Larimore, Elina T. Page, and John A. Kirlin (December 2016).

"Recent Evidence on the Effects of Food Store Access on Food Choice and Diet Quality"—by Michele Ver Ploeg and Ilya Rahkovsky (May 2016).

"Most U.S. Households Do Their Main Grocery Shopping at Supermarkets and Supercenters Regardless of Income"—by Rosanna Mentzer Morrison and Lisa Mancino (August 2015).

Grants and workshops

2022 International Food Acquisition Research and Methods (iFARM) workshop

The USDA, Economic Research Service and the University of Maryland, College Park hosted the "International Food Acquisition Research and Methods" (iFARM) workshop on October 20–21, 2022 at the University of Maryland. The goal of the workshop was to bring together researchers from different disciplines to discuss advancements in methods for collecting and processing food acquisition data. Conference proceedings can be found on the University of Maryland’s Social Data Science Center’s iFARM webpage.

2016 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) grants

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), with support from USDA's Economic Research Service and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), organized a 2-year research initiative consisting of 10 distinct projects that leveraged the FoodAPS data to address issues related to food security, nutrition, and health in the United States. The funding for the NBER grants ran from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2018. Information and outcomes from the grants can be found on the NBER FoodAPS page.

2016 University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research grants

The University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, in cooperation with ERS, competitively awarded grants to qualified individuals and institutions to provide rigorous research that utilized FoodAPS to expand our understanding of household food behaviors and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Research issues of interest included: benefit adequacy, diet quality, cost of a healthy diet, food security, and the role of the local food environment and other geographic factors. In addition to the FoodAPS data, geographically-linked data on the local food environment and food prices compiled as part of the FoodAPS Geography Component (FoodAPS-GC) were available for awardees. Three grants were awarded for 2016, and 12 grants were awarded in 2014.

2014 University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research grants

In 2014, 12 grants were awarded across two topical domains: (1) Household food behaviors and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program—including the issues of benefit adequacy, diet quality, cost of a healthy diet, and food security, and (2) the role of the local food environment and other geographic factors on household food purchase and acquisition decisions. The final reports are available as 2016 discussion papers