Food Policy Bites: Cost Changes of Different Food Market Baskets

Food Policy Bites Issue #1: Food costs have increased for households across the country. Recent analysis from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute estimates that typical U.S. households’ food costs might have exceeded the Thrifty Food Plan developed by USDA. Using data from the Bureau Labor of Statistics’ Consumer Price Index and 2011-19 Consumer Expenditure Surveys, we calculate that expenditure shares for surveyed SNAP and U.S. household groups are significantly different from the Thrifty Food Plan. For example, vegetables and fruits accounted for less than 20% of total food-at-home expenditures compared to nearly 40% in the 2021 Thrifty Food Plan; the reverse is found to be true for meats and miscellaneous foods.

Taking into account differences in expenditure shares, we found that households whose food purchases matched those of the Thrifty Food Plan might have paid an estimated 14.1% more for food in August 2022 compared to June 2021. Households whose purchases matched SNAP or U.S. households might have seen food prices increase by more than 15%. More data and analyses need to be conducted to know the actual changes; however, our estimates suggest that a typical household’s shopping pattern is likely far from the nutritional guidelines used to design the Thrifty Food Plan and the cost-of-living adjustment used to adjust SNAP benefits might have fallen short of offsetting increases in SNAP households’ food costs.

Food Policy Bites are easily-digestible food policy insights supported by economic data analytics and analyses.

Food Policy Bites #1