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Government researchers want to peek in grocery carts


The government wants to know how you decide what to put in your grocery cart.

The idea, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, is to help families get healthier.

"This ambitious five-year effort will fill in critical gaps in existing data on the food purchases of U.S. households and be invaluable in assessing and enhancing the effectiveness of USDA's food assistance programs for low-income families," Vilsack says.

He announced on Thursday that Princeton-based Mathematica Policy Research will conduct the survey, which will be called the National Household Food Purchase and Acquisition Study.

The information will be used to help researchers figure out how food assistance programs affect the decisions people make about buying food.

"For the first time, researchers will have data that captures key factors like food prices, where food is purchased, dietary knowledge and the interplay of food assistance programs and food choices," says Rajiv Shah, under-secretary for research, education and economics at USDA.

About 1 in 5 Americans participates in at least one of USDA's food assistance programs in a given year.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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Is it bad that I'm usually skeptical about these types of surveys and programs? Can the government really help America get healthy?


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