Researcher Hub

This section is designed to provide useful resources for researchers and links to research related blog posts. We have provided additional pages of resources specific to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Useful Reports and References

BECR_square2Choosing Foods and Beverages to Promote in Healthy Retail Research by Terry Hartman, Molly De Marco, Megan Lott, Jessica Soldavini, Madelaine Katz, Alice Ammerman, and Mary Story.

Purchasing a healthy mix of food items is a key step toward improving diet and health. Researchers are increasingly focusing on this step, investigating strategies to promote healthy food purchasing. However, in a retail setting that encompasses thousands of items, choosing products to promote that are most likely to have a positive impact on consumers’ diets may require consideration. The purpose of this brief is to provide behavioral researchers with a quick reference to help determine which types of products to promote.

BECR_square2Review of the Literature on Use of Behavioral Economic Nudges in Farmers’ Markets and More Traditional Retail Settings by Hannah Pettus, a master’s student from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Behavioral Economic nudges offer a range of techniques for influencing food-choice related behaviors in retail settings, including convenience stores, grocery stores and farmers’ markets. We summarize the research to date that has used behavioral economic techniques to nudge consumers to make healthier choices in places where we shop for food.

BECR_square2What’s in it for Retailers? Establishing Partnerships with Food Retailers to Conduct Healthy Food Choice Research by Molly De Marco, Leah Chapman, and Nasir Siddique

Food retailers can and should be seen as vital partners as we work to improve nutrition. This brief provides insights and strategies for establishing research partnerships with food retailers. This brief represents accumulated insights from researchers working with the following programs and projects: SNAP-Ed, BECR, NC Growing Together, and the RNECE-South, who have conducted healthy food retail interventions for 5 years with over 20 different corporate and family-owned retailers.

Recent Evidence on the Effects of Food Store Access on Food Choice and Diet Quality by Michele Ver Ploeg and Ilya Rahkovsky

Food store access, particularly as measured by proximity, has a limited impact on food choices. Ninety percent of U.S. households shop for their groceries at supermarkets or supercenters, which generally carry wide varieties of both healthy and less healthy foods. Household and neighborhood resources, education, and taste preferences may be more important determinants of food choice than store proximity.

Could Behavioral Economics Help Improve Diet Quality for Nutrition Assistance Program Participants?  by David R Just, Lisa Mancino, and Brian Wansink

This study uses behavioral economics, food marketing, and psychology to identify possible options for improving the diets and health of participants in the Food Stamp Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Following Dietary Guidance Need Not Cost More—But Many Americans Would Need To Re-Allocate Their Food Budgets by Andrea Carlson, Diansheng Dong, Hayden Stewart, and Elizabeth Frazão

Most Americans across all income levels consume poor diets. Behavior changes, such as preparing food at home instead of eating out, are associated with improvements in diet quality. To realize the much larger improvements in diet quality required to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many Americans would need to reallocate their food budgets, spending a larger share on fruits and vegetables and a lower share on protein foods and foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep by Joanne Guthrie and Biing-Hwan LinFamily shopping in supermarket

Vegetables—naturally low in calories and sodium and high in dietary fiber—are mostly eaten by Americans in prepared forms that alter their nutrient profile.  Holding constant the total amount of food consumed, eating more vegetables in the forms currently favored by Americans would add calories and sodium.  Reformulation of processed foods, improved labeling of packaged foods, and menu labeling of food prepared away from home may help Americans make more nutritious vegetable choices.

Food Security Among Hispanic Adults in the United States, 2011-2014 by Matthew Rabbitt, Michael D. Smith, and Alisha Coleman-Jensen

Hispanics made up 17 percent of the U.S. population, or some 55 million people in 2014. In 2014, 14.0 percent of all U.S. households were food insecure, versus 22.4 percent of Hispanic households. Food insecurity varies among Hispanic subpopulations by origin, immigration status, household composition, State, and metro/suburban residence.

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 by Michele Ver Ploeg, Lisa Mancino, Jessica E. Todd, Dawn Marie Clay, and Benjamin Scharadin

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.

Most U.S. Households Do Their Main Grocery Shopping at Supermarkets and Supercenters Regardless of Income by Rosanna Mentzer Morrison and Lisa Mancino

SNAP participants and households that are food insecure are less likely than higher income consumers to use their own vehicle for their primary food shopping.  However, differences in transportation modes do not translate into differences in the types of stores that SNAP and food-insecure households use for their food shopping.  Ninety percent of both SNAP and food-insecure households do their usual grocery shopping at either a supermarket or a supercenter—the same as higher income consumers.

Fresh Fruit On The MarketScarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan, and Eldar Shafir

This book shows the distinct psychology of scarcity for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money. The dynamics of scarcity reveal why dieters find it hard to resist temptation, why students and busy executives mismanage their time, and why the same sugarcane farmers are smarter after harvest than before.

Useful Data Sources

FoodAPS National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey

USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) is the first nationally representative survey of American households to collect unique and comprehensive data about household food purchases and acquisitions. Detailed information was collected about foods purchased or otherwise acquired for consumption at home and away from home, including foods acquired through food and nutrition assistance programs. The survey includes nationally representative data from 4,826 households, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households, low-income households not participating in SNAP, and higher income households.  Learn more about accessing FoodAPS Data.

Understanding IRI Household-Based and Store-Based Scanner Data by Mary K. Muth, Megan Sweitzer, Derick Brown, Kristen Capogrossi, Shawn A. Karns, David Levin, Abigail Okrent, Peter Siegel, and Chen Zhen

ERS has acquired commercial scanner data from market research firm IRI for use in food economics research. This report examines the methodology, characteristics, and statistical properties of the datasets. It provides an introduction to the data for new users and important considerations for advanced users.


Choose MyPlate

Meeting your MyPlate Goals on a Budget Toolkit
White House Recipes

You may also refer to the ERS publications and reportsFNS publications and reports, or ERS Data Products for more information.

Researcher Profile: Drs. Alice Ammerman & Molly De Marco

Dr. Ammeran began her career as a WIC nutritionist. She is currently a Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global PublicHealth at UNC-Chapel Hill, and directs the UNC Center for HealthPromotion and Disease Prevention. Her research focuses on the design,implementation, and dissemination of innovative approaches to chronic disease risk reduction (through nutrition and physical activity) in low income and minority populations. Dr. Ammerman […]

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Researcher Profile: Dr. Harry Zhang

Harry Zhang is an Associate Professor of Community & Environmental Health at Old Dominion University. He is a recipient of BECR’s 2015 WIC Conceptual White Papers and our Healthy Food Behavior Grant. This is the first in our new series of researcher profiles for people interested in this field. If you would like to suggest a researcher for our series, please feel […]

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CVS Health’s Attempt to Harness Behavioral Science

By: Emily von Hoffman

Earlier this month, CVS Health unveiled the next phase in its brand transformation—in about 500 stores, the company will employ a floor design that places more focus on ‘healthy’ food items. A large part of the design will entail placing healthier items near the cash registers, an area that is often a junk food labyrinth to challenge […]

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