The EFSNE Market Basket

Posted: December 3, 2013

If there’s a single thread that ties together the various research efforts of the EFSNE project, then surely it’s food. But not just any food. Eight foods, in particular, serve as the focal point of the project: apples, bread, cabbage, canned peaches, frozen broccoli, ground beef, milk, and potatoes. Together, they constitute the “full-diet market basket” that is so often referenced throughout these pages.
Update: For more information, check out "Using a market basket to explore regional food systems," which was published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development in December 2017.

This market basket approach is common in food and nutrition research. The foods chosen for a given study should represent a diet typical of the population being studied, should satisfy basic nutritional requirements, and must meet a number of additional criteria that relate to the study’s objectives.

The multi-disciplinary nature of the EFSNE project — with its 12 distinct disciplines and diverse research efforts — made the selection of its market basket foods inherently challenging. “The question for us was, which foods would meet the requirements of so many different objectives in the project,” explained Kate Clancy, the project’s deputy director.

For example, the Consumption Team needed the foods to be available in each of the 18 stores in the low income areas where team members would be conducting their research. The Distribution Team needed foods that could be traced back through their supply chains to their sources. And the Production Team needed foods that could be produced in the Northeast, now or in the reasonable future.

“We’re looking at improving access to regionally produced food, so our primary criterion for our market basket foods is that they be produced in the Northeast. Our secondary criterion is that they be processed in the Northeast,” said Clancy. “We opted to include bread because a lot of bread is baked in the region and is an important component of a full-diet market basket. Wheat used to produce bread is currently not widely grown in the Northeast region. However, there have been several recent projects evaluating the feasibility of both farm-level production and processing into bread in the region.”

Since another objective of the project is to explore access to “healthy” food, the team also wanted the market basket to include some foods that have both “healthy” and “conventional” versions: low-fat milk and whole milk, full-fat ground beef and lean ground beef, white bread and whole-grain bread, and others. The team is interested in finding out whether healthy versions of their market basket items are in the stores, and whether people are buying them.

How else are these eight foods being used in the various research efforts of the project? Here are some examples:

More information about these and other research efforts of the project is available here.