USDA: 1 in 4 Americans Receive Food Assistance

Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 11:31 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture said about a quarter of all Americans receive food aid from government programs, and that the agency has responsibility for helping people make healthier food choices.

"Approximately 1 in 4 Americans participated in at least one of the 15 food and nutrition assistance programs at some point during FY 2013, making these programs fundamental to the nutritional well-being of millions of Americans," the USDA said in a statement, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

As part of its drive to "nudge" Americans toward eating healthier, the USDA announced it is setting up a new $2 million research center called the Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research. The center will fund research on "facilitating food choice behaviors" and improving the diets of people on food stamps, according to the Free Beacon.

"The USDA Center will facilitate new and innovative research on the application of behavioral economics theory to healthy food choice behaviors that would contribute to enhancing the nutrition, food security, and health of American consumers," the USDA said in an announcement calling for grant applications.

The agency said it intends to focus on how people decide about eating, while also addressing how the menus of fast-food companies might be altered to help Americans eat healthier.

The USDA said it was also interested in research that could encourage people on food stamps to plan meals in advance, make shopping lists, and avoid shopping when hungry, noting that the average 47.6 million people on the benefits each month had "diets in need of improvement."

The agency said it spent close to $109 billion in 2013, with food and nutritional assistance accounting for 72 percent of its budget, the Free Beacon reported.

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