We examine how various socioeconomic, demographic, geographic, and policy factors are associated with short-term and long-term food purchasing behaviors and dietary intake. In our research, we document and analyze:
- What foods people buy at the store,
- What people consume,
- Where people shop for food (including store types or locations), and
- Differences in observed purchases or consumption patterns among different groups of people (ie, subpopulations that experience health disparities).
We use these data to evaluate the nutritional, health, and equity impacts of:
- Population-level events such as The Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Federal and state food and nutrition assistance programs (e.g., WIC or SNAP);
- Existing or proposed local, state, or federal nutrition policies (e.g., city-wide sugary drink taxes); and
- Voluntary industry pledges (e.g., Walmart’s Healthier Food Initiative).
We have worked with decades of household food purchasing data — linked by our team with time-relevant nutrition label information — and have developed a system to classify foods and beverages into policy-relevant product categories. We designed these categories to account for differences in nutrient content, ingredients, degree of processing, degree of convenience, perishability, etc. This allows us to examine purchasing trends over time according to these attributes and to inform food/nutrition policy development, implementation, and impact assessments.
Our team also has a long history of conducting research on changes in U.S. diet quality, decomposition of energy intake, and eating patterns of U.S. children and adults using nationally representative survey data to capture the multidimensionality of eating behaviors.