Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week the selection of Princeton-based Mathematica Policy Research to conduct a major survey on food choices and expenditures by U.S. households – the National Household Food Purchase and Acquisition Study (NHFPAS).
“Helping American families improve their overall health is one of my top priorities,” said Vilsack. “This ambitious 5-year effort will fill in critical gaps in existing data on the food purchases of U.S. households and be invaluable in assessing and enhancing the effectiveness of USDA’s food assistance programs for low-income families.”
The survey will gather unique, detailed data not previously available to researchers. USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), which made the selection, will use the resulting data to study how food assistance programs and other economic and demographic factors affect household food purchase decisions and health outcomes. This effort will be carried out with the support of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
“For the first time, researchers will have data that captures key factors like food prices, where food is purchased, dietary knowledge, and the interplay of food assistance programs and food choices,” said Rajiv Shah, Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics at USDA.
“This study will allow us to enhance and increase the efficiency of federal nutrition assistance and education programs that serve as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and a critical safety net for the underserved Americans,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA.
No other survey, private or public, collects information on food purchases, including prices and quantities, for consumption both at and away from home. The results of this survey will allow USDA to understand how households make their purchase choices, and what those choices mean for diet quality.
Among the issues the data from the Mathematica survey can be used to address are:
- How price and income influence food choices and the dietary quality of food purchases;
- What participants in the SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program, buy and how much it costs;
- How participation in food assistance programs influences food purchases;
- The relationship between food purchase decisions and levels of food security (consistent access to sufficient food for a healthy lifestyle);
- How access and retail outlet choice and location influence food purchases and the resulting dietary quality of purchases; and
- The influence of nutrition knowledge on food purchases.