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USDA ISSUES REPORT ON AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS FOOD SPENDING

Food spending is one measure of household well-being. To assess that measure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) periodically publishes information on nationwide food expenditures, with data presented by selected demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. A newly issued report continues the tradition. Previous versions were issued in 1985, 1987, 1990, 1992, and 2001. USDA tabulations are based on the most recent and comprehensive data available on at-home and away-from-home food spending by U.S. urban households.

The new study, entitled Food Spending in American Households, 2003-2004, found the following:

  • Between 2003 and 2004, per capita spending on food in U.S. urban areas rose from $2,035 to $2,207. This change reflects increases of 7.9% in at-home food expenditures and 9.3% in away-from-home food expenditures.
  • Over the same period, per capita food expenditures as a share of total income in urban areas dropped from 9.8% to 9.5%.
  • In 2003, U.S. urban households with incomes in the lowest quintile (bottom 20% of the income distribution) spent $1,769 per person for total food, or 37.3% of total household income. Households in the highest quintile spent $2,737 per person for food, or 6.6% of total household income. Wealthier households, however, spent more of their food budgets on away-from-home food than other households.
  • In 2003, urban female-headed households with children spent $1,610 per person for total food, of which 66% was devoted to food at home. Married couples without children spent $2,740 per person on total food, of which 60% was devoted to food at home.
  • In 2004, urban one-person households spent more than twice as much per person on food as households of six or more persons. Smaller households also spent a much larger share of their food budget on food consumed away from home than larger households.
  • As the age of the head of the household increased, so, too, did urban per capita food expenditures in 2004. Once the head of the household reached age 64, however, per capita food spending started to decline. Households headed by persons age 55-64 spent the most per person on food consumed away from home.
  • Among all U.S. regions, urban households in the Northeast spent the most on total food per person in 2004, while urban households in the South spent the least. These rankings hold for away-from-home food expenditures as well.
In the case of cheese, between 2003 and 2004 the study found that per capita spending in U.S. urban areas rose from $39.24 to $46.85, representing a remarkable 19.4% increase. The study also found the following with respect to household spending on cheese:

  • In 2003, U.S. urban households with incomes in the lowest quintile spent $33.62 for cheese. Households in the second quintile spent $37.75, households in the third quintile spent $40.92, and households in the fourth quintile spent $41.97. Households in the fifth quintile (the top 20% of the income distribution) spent $50.79 per capita on cheese.
  • In 2004, U.S. urban households with incomes in the first (or lowest) quintile spent $35.69 per person for cheese. Households in the fifth (or highest) quintile spent $63.20 per person for cheese.
  • In 2003, white households spent $43.34 per capita for cheese, almost double the $22.07 spent by black households. In 2004, spending by white households jumped to $52.31 per capita while spending by black households rose slightly to $23.69 per person.
  • Among all U.S. regions, urban households in the Northeast spent the most on cheese in 2004 (i.e., $54.24 per person), while urban households in the South spent the least (i.e., $43.05 per person).