The Importance of Purchase to Plate Data

Blog by Andrea Carlson and Thea Palmer Zimmerman: “…Because there can be economic and social barriers to maintaining a healthy diet, USDA promotes Food and Nutrition Security so that everyone has consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods that promote optimal health and well-being. A set of data tools called the Purchase to Plate Suite (PPS) supports these goals by enabling the update of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which estimates how much a budget-conscious family of four needs to spend on groceries to ensure a healthy diet. The TFP market basket – consisting of the specific amounts of various food categories required by the plan – forms the basis of the maximum allotment for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the “Food Stamps” program), which provided financial support towards the cost of groceries for over 41 million individuals in almost 22 million households in fiscal year 2022.

The 2018 Farm Act (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) requires that USDA reevaluate the TFP every five years using current food composition, consumption patterns, dietary guidance, and food prices, and using approved scientific methods. USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) was charged with estimating the current food prices using retail food scanner data (Levin et al. 2018Muth et al. 2016) and utilized the PPS for this task. The most recent TFP update was released in August 2021 and the revised cost of the market basket was the first non-inflation adjustment increase in benefits for SNAP in over 40 years (US Department of Agriculture 2021).

The PPS combines datasets to enhance research related to the economics of food and nutrition. There are four primary components of the suite:

  • Purchase to Plate Crosswalk (PPC),
  • Purchase to Plate Price Tool (PPPT),
  • Purchase to Plate National Average Prices (PP-NAP) for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and
  • Purchase to Plate Ingredient Tool (PPIT)..(More)”