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The Influence of Foodstore Access on Grocery Shopping and Food Spending

By Ploeg M, Larimore E, Wilde P


Low access to food retailers selling healthy and affordable foods may lead to reliance on food retail venues that carry a limited range of foods. Reliance on smaller retail stores and restaurants may result in a poor diet and diet-related health problems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey contains abundant data for examining how access to food retailers influences where households get their food, including stores and restaurants, and how much they spend at each place. This research looks at households that do not use their own vehicle to travel to a store and live more than 0.5 mile from the nearest SNAP-authorized supermarket or superstore, likely barriers to accessing food. Using a national sample and a low- income subsample that includes participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the authors find evidence that access-burdened households have some distinct shopping patterns. They are less likely to visit a large store (supermarket, super- center, or warehouse store) than households with a vehicle or close access (77 percent compared with 87 percent). While those with burdened access who do visit these venues do so less frequently, both groups average over two shopping events at these stores (2.4 events for access-burdened households compared with 2.8 for those with sufficient access). The differences in shopping frequency do not translate to less spending at these large stores as both access-burdened and sufficient-access households spend about 58 percent of their food budget there. Access-burdened households spend a greater share of their budget at food-at-home sources (73 percent) and a smaller percentage of their food at restaurants of all types (27 percent) than households with better access (63 and 37 percent, respectively). Overall spending patterns are similar for both SNAP- participating and low-income nonparticipating households that are access-burdened compared with those who have sufficient access.

This research was funded by the USDA Economic Research Service.

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Date Added
November 27, 2017

Ploeg M, Larimore E, Wilde P (2017) 'The Influence of Foodstore Access on Grocery Shopping and Food Spending' EIB-180. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Available online: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/85442/eib-180.pdf?v=43024