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What's the best way to collect data on food a household acquires?

Implementing the FoodAPS-2 study

Limited national data are available on household food purchasing decisions. Collecting this information will help fill a critical data gap and support research that informs policymaking on key national priorities, including hunger, nutrition assistance policy, health, and obesity.

To better understand what foods Americans’ acquire and have access to, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Economic Research Service (ERS) is sponsoring the FoodAPS study. The first study was conducted in 2012. USDA is now preparing to launch FoodAPS-2 in 2021. Capturing all the food a household acquires over a 7-day period is complex and requires extensive infrastructure to execute successfully.

USDA tapped Westat to test an alternate data collection method that used web-based tools in 2016 and given the positive findings, has subsequently awarded Westat the FoodAPS-2 contract.

  • FoodAPS-2 respondents will use a smartphone app to provide information on their food acquisitions. The app is designed to reduce respondent burden and increase data quality. In-person interviews will be conducted via computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI).
  • Participants will be able to upload their receipts, take pictures of food items, and scan barcodes with smartphones or a barcode scanner connected to a computer or tablet.
  • Multiple databases support this system allowing scanned food items to be recognized and registered in real time.
  • Westat is performing feasibility testing for the project.
  • FoodAPS data allow researchers to investigate the relationship between consumer choices, food prices, income, community environment, and policy factors.

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