This study uses calendar year 2011 point-of-sale transaction data from a leading grocery retailer to examine the food choices of SNAP and non-SNAP households . On average, each month’s transaction data contained over 1 billion records of food items bought by 26.5 million households in 127 million unique transactions.
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Differences in the expenditure patterns of SNAP and non-SNAP households were relatively limited, regardless of how data were categorized.
- About 40 cents of every food purchase dollar was spent on basic items like meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, and bread.
- Another 20 cents was spent on sweetened drinks, desserts, salty snacks, candy, and sugar.
- The remaining 40 cents was spent on a variety of items such as cereal, prepared foods, other dairy products, rice, beans, and other cooking ingredients.
- The top 10 summary categories and top 7 commodities by expenditure were the same for SNAP and non-SNAP households, although ranked in slightly different orders.
Summary category data show that both SNAP and non-SNAP households focused their spending in a relatively small number of similar food item categories, reflecting similar food choices. The top five summary categories totaled about half of the expenditures for SNAP households and non-SNAP households (50 versus 47 percent).