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Types of Food Expenditures

ERS Series--Food Expenditures Based on Actual Sales

ERS's analysis of food expenditures provides valuable information on how consumers spend their food dollar and how their consumption patterns change over time. ERS derives its aggregate food expenditure series by estimating current sales or receipts by each type of store that sells food. Measurement of purchases of food for at-home use, meal and snack purchases for food-away-from-home consumption, and alcoholic beverages purchased by families, individuals, and institutions provides the most direct measurement of food expenditures.

PCE Series--Food Expenditures Based on Commerce Department Surveys

Although trends in food expenditures are similar, the ERS food expenditure series differs from the U.S. Department of Commerce's aggregate estimates of Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) series. The ERS series shows a lower level of spending for food than does the PCE series, particularly for food purchased at grocery stores and other retail outlets for consumption at home. The ERS estimates of at-home expenditures are lower in part because they exclude pet food, ice, and prepared foods, which are included in PCE estimates. ERS estimates also deduct more from grocery store sales for nonfoods, such as drugs and branded supplies, in estimating food purchases for at-home consumption.

CE Series--Food Expenditures Based on BLS Survey

ERS also uses data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) on household food expenditures. Data from this annual survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), provide information on the buying habits of American consumers by socioeconomic characteristics. The CE is the only Federal survey that associates the complete range of consumer expenditures with income and other characteristics of those consumers. The survey consists of two parts-the Quarterly Interview Survey and the Diary survey, each with its own questionnaire and sample. Interview survey data provide information on relatively large or recurring expenditures, and diary survey data offer detailed expenditure information on small, frequently purchased items. ERS uses these data in conjunction with ERS's food consumption data to study food expenditures and food demand by American households.

Data Sources

The primary data source for the ERS series is the U.S. Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, with data first becoming available from the 1929 Economic Census. Census Bureau reports used in the ERS series include Industry and Subject Series: Retail Trade (NAICS 44-45), Wholesale Trade (NAICS 42), Accommodations and Food Services (NAICS 72), and Other Services (NAICS 81). Information on the dollar amount of sales for food and alcoholic beverages at different types of retail establishments is available from the Census Bureau every 5 years.

Each year for which the full, detailed figures are available is referred to as a census year. Between census years, both monthly and annual U.S. sales data are calculated by the Census Bureau based on a sample of the 5-year census respondents. The monthly and annual sales data are not as detailed as the census year data, and ERS employs projection techniques to obtain annual estimates of certain factors for years between census years. The most recent complete census year available is 2002. 

Food At Home Expenditures

Census Bureau reports used to directly measure food-at-home expenditures include the Retail Trade Report, Services Annual Survey, Wholesale Trade Report, Annual Survey of Manufacturers, and Statistical Abstract of the United States. As measured in census year 2002 data, over 96 percent of food-at-home expenditures is measured by one of these reports. The remaining 4 percent of food-at-home expenditures is measured by the commodity reports of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA's Census of Agriculture, ACNielsen annual grocer's survey reported in Progressive Grocer magazine, and food program data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

Food-at-home expenditures include food sales from:

  • food stores
  • other stores
  • home delivery and mail orders
  • farmers, manufacturers, and wholesalers, and
  • home production and donations.
Food Stores

Grocery stores, NAICS 4451--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of food products.

Specialty food stores, NAICS 44522 (Fish and Seafood Markets), NAICS 44523 (Fruit and Vegetable Markets), NAICS 44529 (Other Specialty Food Stores)--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing specialized lines of food.

Sales to restaurants, institutions, and others--based on Census of Retail Trade, Miscellaneous Subjects (includes sales by "other food stores"). The sales in this category are subtracted from the total to avoid double counting.

Military outlets, stores, exchanges, canteens--sales are collected by Nielsen and reported annually by the National Restaurant Association in Progressive Grocer magazine.

Other Stores

Department Stores, NAICS 4521--this industry group consists of establishments known as department stores primarily engaged in retailing a wide range of the following new products with no one merchandise line predominating: apparel; furniture; appliances and home furnishings; and selected additional items, such as paint, hardware, toiletries, cosmetics, photographic equipment, jewelry, toys, and sporting goods. Merchandise lines are normally arranged in separate departments.

Other General Merchandise Stores or Mass Merchandisers, NAICS 4529--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing new goods in general merchandise stores (except department stores).

Warehouse/Wholesale Clubs and Supercenters, NAICS 45291--this industry consists of establishments known as warehouse clubs, superstores, or supercenters primarily engaged in retailing a general line of groceries in combination with general lines of new merchandise, such as apparel, furniture, and appliances.

All Other General Merchandise Stores, NAICS 45299--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing new goods in general merchandise stores (except department stores, warehouse clubs, superstores, and supercenters). These establishments retail a general line of new merchandise, such as apparel automotive parts, dry goods, hardware, groceries, housewares or home furnishings, and other lines in limited amounts, with none of the lines predominating.

Variety Stores, NAICS 4529901--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing a variety of merchandise, such as inexpensive apparel and accessories, costume jewelry, notions, candy, toys, and other items in the low and popular price ranges. These establishments generally do not carry a complete line of merchandise, are not departmentalized, do not offer their own charge service, and do not deliver merchandise.

Gas Stations, NAICS 447--industries in the gasoline stations subsector retail automotive fuels (e.g., diesel fuel, gasohol, gasoline) and automotive oils with or without convenience store items. These establishments have specialized equipment for the storage and dispensing of automotive fuels.

Health and Personal Care Stores, NAICS 446--industries in the Health and Personal Care Stores subsector retail health and personal care merchandise from fixed point-of-sale locations. Establishments in this subsector are characterized principally by the products they retail, and some health and personal care stores may have specialized staff trained in dealing with the products. Staff may include pharmacists, opticians, and other professionals engaged in retailing, advising customers, and/or fitting the product sold to the customer's needs.

Beer, Wine, and Liquor Stores, NAICS 4453--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing packaged alcoholic beverages, such as ale, beer, wine, and liquor.

Full-Service Restaurants, NAICS 7221--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing food services to patrons who order and are served while seated (i.e., waiter/waitress service) and pay after eating. Establishments that provide this type of food service to patrons with any combination of other services, such as take-out services, are classified in this industry.

Limited-Service Eating Places, NAICS 7222--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing food services where patrons generally order or select items and pay before eating. Most establishments do not have waiter/waitress service, but some provide limited service, such as cooking to order (i.e., per special request), bringing food to seated customers, or providing off-site delivery.

Drinking Places, NAICS 7224--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in preparing and serving alcoholic beverages for immediate consumption.

Special Food Service or Other Eating Places, NAICS 7223--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing one of the following food services: (1) at the customer's location, (2) at a location designated by the customer, or (3) from motorized vehicles or nonmotorized carts.

Home Delivery and Mail Orders

Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses, NAICS 4541--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing all types of merchandise using non-store means, such as catalogs, toll-free telephone numbers, or electronic media, such as interactive television or computer. Included in this industry are establishments primarily engaged in retailing from catalog showrooms of mail-order houses.

Vending Machines and Other Direct Selling Establishments, NAICS 45439--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing merchandise (except food for immediate consumption and fuel) via direct sale to the customer by such means as in-house sales (i.e., party plan merchandising), truck or wagon sales, and portable stalls (i.e., street vendors).

Farmers, Manufacturers, and Wholesalers

Purchases Directly From Farmers and Fishermen--uses the Census of Agriculture conducted by NASS, USDA in 1997 and 2002 for dollar sales in table 2,"Value of agricultural products sold directly to individuals for human consumption." This amount is updated between census years by using Consumer Price Index (CPI) changes for each of the meat categories.

Purchases Directly From Manufacturers--from the Census of Manufacturers, Annual Survey of Manufacturers, excluding alcoholic beverages, feed, pet food, and ice.

Purchases by Wholesalers, current year purchases, NAICS 4244, Wholesale Trade Report--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in the merchant wholesale distribution of a general line of groceries.

Home Production and Donations

Home Production--based on NASS's annual summary reports Meat Animals Production, Disposition, and IncomeandMilk Production, Disposition, and Income, which summarizes the value of home consumption.

Donations--based on USDA's FNS program division data that includes annual USDA donations to families, donations from the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and special distributions from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Food Away From Home

As measured in census year 2002 data, over 90 percent of food-away-from home expenditures is directly measured by Census Bureau data from several reports, including Retail Trade Report, Services Annual Survey, Statistical Abstract of the United States, and Census of Services, and from the Monthly Labor Review, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. The remaining 10 percent of food-away-from-home expenditures is measured by data from food program data; Bureau of Transportation Statistics; National Restaurant Association; Veterans Administration; U.S. Department of Commerce, Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE); and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Food-away-from-home expenditures include food sales from

  • eating and drinking places,
  • hotels and motels,
  • retail stores and direct selling,
  • recreational places,
  • schools and colleges, and
  • all other places.
Eating and Drinking Places

Full-Service Restaurants, NAICS 7221--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing food services to patrons who order and are served while seated (i.e., waiter/waitress service) and pay after eating. Establishments that provide this type of food service to patrons with any combination of other services, such as take-out services, are classified in this industry.

Limited-Service Restaurants, NAICS 7222--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing food services where patrons generally order or select items and pay before eating. Most establishments do not have waiter/waitress service, but some provide limited service, such as cooking to order (e.g., per special request), bringing food to seated customers, or providing off-site delivery.

Other Eating Places or Special Food Service, NAICS 7223--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing one of the following food services: (1) at the customer's location; (2) at a location designated by the customers; or (3) from motorized vehicles or nonmotorized carts.

Drinking Places, NAICS 7224--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in preparing and serving alcoholic beverages for immediate consumption.

Hotels and Motels

Traveler Accommodation, NAICS 7211--this industry group includes establishments classified as hotels (except casino hotels) and motels, casino hotels, and other traveler accommodation.

Retail Stores and Direct Selling

Grocery Stores, NAICS 4451--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of food products.

Specialty Food Stores, NAICS 44522 (fish and seafood markets), NAICS 44523 (fruit and vegetable markets), NAICS 44529 (other specialty food stores)--this industry group consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing specialized lines of food.

Department Stores, NAICS 4521--this industry group consists of establishments known as department stores primarily engaged in retailing a wide range of the following new products with no one merchandise line predominating: apparel; furniture; appliances and home furnishings; and selected additional items, such as paint, hardware, toiletries, cosmetics, photographic equipment, jewelry, toys, and sporting goods. Merchandise lines are normally arranged in separate departments.

Warehouse/Wholesale Clubs and Superstores, NAICS 45291--this industry consists of establishments known as warehouse clubs, superstores or supercenters primarily engaged in retailing a general line of groceries in combination with general lines of new merchandise, such as apparel, furniture, and appliances.

All Other General Merchandise Stores, NAICS 45299--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing new goods in general merchandise stores (except department stores, warehouse clubs, superstores, and supercenters). These establishments retail a general line of new merchandise, such as apparel automotive parts, dry goods, hardware, groceries, housewares or home furnishings, and other lines in limited amounts, with none of the lines predominating.

Gas Stations, NAICS 447--industries in the Gasoline Stations subsector retail automotive fuels (e.g., diesel fuel, gasohol, gasoline) and automotive oils with or without convenience store items. These establishments have specialized equipment for the storage and dispensing of automotive fuels.

Health and Personal Care Stores, NAICS 446--industries in the Health and Personal Care Stores subsector retail health and personal care merchandise from fixed point-of-sale locations. Establishments in this subsector are characterized principally by the products they retail, and some health and personal care stores may have specialized staff trained in dealing with the products. Staff may include pharmacists, opticians, and other professionals engaged in retailing, advising customers, and/or fitting the product sold to the customer's needs.

Beer, Wine, and Liquor Stores, NAICS 4453--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing packaged alcoholic beverages, such as ale, beer, wine, and liquor.

Vending Machines and Other Direct Selling Establishments, NAICS 45439--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in retailing merchandise (except food for immediate consumption and fuel) via direct sale to the customer by such means, as in-house sales (i.e., party plan merchandising), truck or wagon sales, and portable stalls (i.e., street vendors).

Food Service Contractors or Contract Feeding, NAICS 72231--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in providing food service at institutional, governmental, commercial, or industrial locations of others based on contractual arrangements with these types of organizations for a specified period. The establishments of this industry provide food services for the convenience of the contracting organization or the contracting organization's customers. The contractual arrangement of these establishments with contracting organizations may very from type of facility operated (i.e., cafeteria, restaurant, fast-food eating place), revenue sharing, and cost structure to providing personnel. Management staff is always provided by the food service contractors.

Recreational Places

Motion Picture Theaters, NAICS 512131, NAICS 512132--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in operating motion picture theaters or exhibiting motion pictures or videos at film festivals, operating drive-in motion picture theaters, and so forth.

Bowling Centers, NAICS 713950--this industry consists of establishments engaged in operating bowling centers. These establishments often provide food and beverage services.

Sporting and Recreation Camps, NAICS 7212--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in operating recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, and vacation camps. These establishments cater to outdoor enthusiasts and are characterized by the type of accommodation and by the nature and the range of recreational facilities and activities provided to their clients.

Amusement Parks, Arcades and Theme Parks, NAICS 7131, NAICS 71311--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in operating a variety of attractions, such as mechanical rides, water rides, games, shows, theme exhibits, refreshment stands, and picnic grounds. These establishments may lease space to others on a concession basis.

Commercial Sports and Racetracks, NAICS 71121--this industry consists of (1) sports teams or clubs primarily participating in live sporting events before a paying audience; (2) establishments primarily engaged in operating racetracks; (3) independent athletes engaged in participating in live sporting or racing events before a paying audience; (4) owners of racing participants, such as cars, dogs, and horses, primarily engaged in entering them in racing events or other spectator sports events; and (5) establishments, such as sports trainers, primarily engaged in providing specialized services to support participants in sports events or competitions. The sports teams and clubs included in this industry may or may not operate in their own arena, stadium, or other facility for presenting their games or other spectator sports events.

Museums, Zoos, Historical Sites, NAICS 712110, NAICS 712120, NAICS 712130--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in the preservation and exhibition of objects of historical, cultural, and/or education value, including buildings, forts, archeological sites, battlefields, historical ships, pioneer villages, and exhibitions of live plant and animal life displays.

Membership Sports and Golf Courses, NAICS 713910, NAICS 713940--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in operating golf courses, along with dining facilities and other recreational facilities known as country clubs. These establishments often provide food and beverage services, equipment rental services, and golf instruction services. This industry also is made up of establishments primarily engaged in operating fitness and recreational sports facilities, featuring exercise and other active physical fitness conditioning or recreational sports activities, such as swimming, skating, or racquet sports.

Schools and Colleges

Sales from Day Schools are from sales data obtained from theStatistical Abstract of the United States, Census Bureau.

Sales from Boarding Schools are from sales data obtained from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, Census Bureau.

Higher Education Food Sales are based on the number of college students (full- and part-time), board rates, students living in university housing, and total-student-meals-per-day-equivalent food expenditures, Statistical Abstract of the United States, Census Bureau.

Child Nutrition Subsidies are from FNS, cash and commodity subsidies for school lunch, school breakfast, and special milk programs.

All Other Places

Military Exchanges, from National Restaurant Association surveys and Progressive Grocer magazine annual grocery sales survey conducted by Nielsen.

Military Clubs, from National Restaurant Association surveys and Progressive Grocer magazine annual grocery sales survey conducted by Nielsen.

Veteran's Canteen Service, from Veterans Administration data.

Organization Hotels and Lodging Houses, NAICS 72131--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in operating rooming and boarding houses and similar facilities, such as fraternity houses, sorority houses, off-campus dormitories, residential clubs, and worker's camps. These establishments provide temporary or long-term accommodations that may serve as a principal residence for the period of occupancy; they may also provide complementary services, such as housekeeping, meals, and laundry services.

Civic, Social and Fraternal Organizations, NAICS 813410, NAICS 813910, NAICS 813920--this industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in promoting the civic and social interests, business interests, or professional interests of their members. Establishments in this industry may operate bars and restaurants for their members.

Grocery and Related Product Wholesalers, NAICS 4224--this group includes grocery and related product wholesalers classified in the following NAICS industries: general-line grocery, packaged frozen food, dairy product, poultry and poultry product, confectionery, fish and seafood, meat and meat product, fresh fruit and vegetable, and other grocery and related products.

Contract Feeding in Offices, NAICS 7223:

  • Food Furnished to Institutions and Group Quarters, including hospitals, nursing homes, other homes and schools, correctional institutions, other group quarter, boarding and rooming houses based on average daily residence (Statistical Abstract of the United States) and cost per person per day as reported by institution or Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey average.
  • Food Furnished to Airlines, airline annual food sales, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Air Carrier Financial, Schedule P-6, Materials Purchased-Passenger Food, quarterly and annual data.
  • Food Furnished to Child Day Care, includes FNS reported bonus commodities and TEFAP foods provided through local emergency feeding organizations.
  • Food Furnished to Distribution Programs, includes FNS reported bonus commodities and TEFAP foods provided through local emergency feeding organizations.

Alcoholic Beverages

All alcoholic beverage expenditures measured in the ERS series are reported in the Census Bureau 2002 data for each establishment that sells alcoholic beverages and alcoholic drinks. Because the Census Bureau reports alcoholic beverage sales in only each census year, projection techniques, described below, are needed for this series between census years. Alcoholic beverage sales are listed in the Census reports as "Packaged liquor, wine, and beer" or "Alcoholic drinks (served at this establishment)."

Level of Measurement by Outlet

Total expenditures for food are derived as the sum of four broad categories:

(1) Food-at-home expenditures include expenditures on food for preparing at home and anywhere else-except on the premises where sold-that is taken home for consumption, including food purchased at department stores, drug stores, or gas stations.
(2) Food-away-from-home expenditures include expenditures on food consumed on the premises where it is sold, such as in restaurants and fast food establishments, including recreation places (movie theaters, amusement parks, concessions in sports parks, etc.).
(3) Packaged alcoholic beverages include beer, wine, and liquor for consumption at home and off the premises where they are sold.
(4) Alcoholic drinks include alcoholic beverages consumed in bars, clubs, and other premises where they are sold.

Industry-level production of all goods and services in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico is measured using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For selected individual NAICS industries, food sales are reported separately by the Census Bureau for food-at-home and food-away-from-home. These figures are developed from the Census Bureau's Survey of Establishments and summarized in its Retail Trade and Merchandise Line Sales reports.

The categories labeled by ERS as "food at home" and "food away from home" actually have different labels in the Census reports. For example, Grocery Stores, NAICS 4451, and Full-Service Restaurants, NAICS 7221, each contain food sales from both categories and industry-specific labels are used by the Census Bureau.

In addition to annual sales data for individual NAICS establishments that sell food, the individual retailers that respond to the census questionnaire record their sales for their establishment by various merchandise lines listed on the questionnaire. Census data reported by the retail establishment and information on the distribution of sales between food, alcoholic beverages, meals, and snacks by type of store are used to determine the percentage of food sales purchased for food-at-home and food-away-from-home consumption. These percentages between food-at-home and food-away-from-home purchases for a given NAICS code remain constant between census years. In other instances, ERS classifies the full level of expenditure at a given outlet as food at home or food away from home. For example, food purchased at schools and colleges are classified entirely as food away from home.

Measurement of Expenditures Between Census Years

Total food expenditures for industry or outlet iin year t, Yi,t, are given by:

(1)    Yi,t = Y Hi,t + Y Ai,t

where Y Hi,t and Y Ai,t are food-at-home and food-away-from-home expenditures. In a census year, the Census Bureau reports data for a NAICS industry in detail sufficient for ERS to identify food-at-home product lines and food-away-from-home product lines, as noted above; nonfood sales for the industry, Ni,t, are also reported separately in the census year. For years between a census year, the Census Bureau reports only the total annual sales figure, Si,t, for the industry, where Si,t is the sum of Y Hi,t, Y Ai,t, and Ni,t. ERS estimates or projects the figures Ŷ Hi,t and Ŷ Ai,t for inter-census years using a common formula shared by many Food Expenditure data series. This common formula is given by:

(2.1)    Ŷ Hi,t = wHi,0 Si,0

(2.2)    Ŷ Ai,t = wAi,0 Si,0

where wHi,0 is an industry-specific share of food-at-home expenditures relative to the industry's total sales (inclusive of nonfood sales) in census year 0, given by (Y Hi,0)/( Si,0); and wAi,0 is a census year share of the industry's food-away-from-home expenditures relative to total sales, given by (Y Ai,0)/(Si,0). For example, the 2002 weights for food-at-home expenditures for certain industries are 72.50 for Grocery Stores (NAICS 4451), 6.62 for Mass Merchandisers (NAICS 4529), 17.45 for Warehouse Clubs and Superstores (NAICS 45291), 0.15 for Full-Service Restaurants (NAICS 7221), and 0.64 for Limited-Service Restaurants (NAICS 7222). The 2002 weights for food-away-from home expenditures for certain industries are 97.60 for Limited-Service Restaurants (NAICS 7222), 81.80 for Full-Service Restaurants (NAICS 7221), 1.81 for Grocery Stores (NAICS 4451), and 14.61 for Variety Stores (NAICS 45299).

Food Expenditures by Source of Funds

A hallmark of the ERS Food Expenditure series is that the U.S. figures for both food-at-home and food-away-from-home expenditures add to total food purchases for all final users-consumers, businesses, and governments (including nonprofit organizations). Expenditures by these groups or sectors are reported separately in table 5.

  • The food expenditures financed by governments are the sum of such items as expenditures paid for by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) and WIC, the value of USDA commodity supplemental donations to school meals and elderly nutrition programs, and the value of food paid for by government and served in military messes, correctional institutions, and hospitals and nursing homes.
  • The food expenditures financed by businesses are the sum of such items as the value of food served by airlines and by hospitals and nursing homes and the value of food furnished to employees by firms.

The total of food expenditures by all final users in table 5 equals the total of food-at-home and food-away-from-home expenditures in table 1. Food expenditures by families and individuals in table 5 are calculated as a residual, deducting the food expenditure figures for government, business, and the value of food produced and consumed on farms (value at farm prices) from the total food expenditures figure from table 1.

Food Expenditures as Shares of Disposable Personal Income (DPI)

Food expenditures by families and individuals as a share of disposable personal income are reported annually in table 7 and in the ERS periodical Amber Waves. Food expenditures by families and individuals as a share of disposable personal money income are reported in table 8. The annual disposable personal income data are reported by U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis in their National Income and Product Account Tables, table 2.1 Personal Income and Its Disposition. The annual data for disposable personal money income are reported by U.S. Department of Commerce, Survey of Current Business, table 2.1 and table 1.14, which include government expenses for military medical insurance, food stamps, and other Federal, State, and local medical care expenses.

Both table 7 and table 8 report food expenditures by families and individuals, but the tables differ as to whether or not certain specific types of household expenditures are counted.

  • The figures used in table 8 are the same as the figures reported in table 5, food expenditures by families and individuals.
  • In contrast, table 7 begins with those figures but adds three major items-the values of food stamps, WIC vouchers, and food produced and consumed on farms (listed in a column of table 5 itself)-and certain minor items. These items are components of disposable personal income, the denominator of the share figures in table 7, and consistency suggests counting the same types of food expenditures in the numerator and denominator.
  • In contrast, the disposable personal money income figures used in table 8 exclude those items. The full set of differences between the treatment of food expenditures in table 7 and table 8 is reported in table 9.

Relative Prices of Food at Three Stages of the System

The prices of food in restaurants and food provided to the food system by manufacturers and shippers are each expressed relative to store prices in table 11. The restaurant prices ratio is calculated as the current-year value of the CPI for food away from home relative to the current-year value for the CPI for food at home. Both indexes are reported in table 13.

The manufacturers' and shippers' prices ratio is calculated as the current-year value of the Producer Price Index (PPI) for consumer foods to manufacturers selling price relative to the CPI for food at home. The PPI for consumer foods to manufacturers selling price uses 1988 as a base year and is calculated by ERS using data and methods described in "Developing an Integrated Information System for the Food Sector."

Food Expenditures at Constant Prices

The food-at-home and food-away-from-home expenditures reported in table 1 are nominal figures i.e., current-year values not adjusted for inflation. These two expenditure categories are reported in constant 1988 dollars in table 12 by deflating a category by its respective price index, each of which is reported in the table. The price index for food at home is based on prices for specific items, including meats, dairy, and related products, fruits and vegetables, nonalcoholic beverages, and other food at home. Specific items of the CPI for food away from home include full-service restaurant meals and snacks, limited-service meals and snacks, food at employee sites and schools, and food from vending machines and mobile vendors. These indexes use 1988 as a base year and are calculated by ERS using data and methods described in Developing an Integrated Information System for the Food Sector.

Periodic Data Revisions

The ERS Food Expenditure data series uses data from several different U.S. Government sources that periodically revise their individual data series. For example, the Census Bureau updates and revises their benchmark Economic Census Reports in their Industry Series and Subject Series every 4-5 years (e.g., in 1997 and 2002). Other major data series for which revisions can affect certain ERS Food Expenditure series include the population estimates of the Census Bureau (used by ERS for food expenditure per capita) and the national economic accounts of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. ERS integrates these updates by revising the ERS Food Expenditure series as updates are released, which can result in changes to figures for several years at a time.

Last updated: Thursday, July 05, 2012

For more information contact: Annette Clauson

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