According to the USDA, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders have dramatically impacted Americans’ food spending. USDA’s Economic Research Service said, unlike previous economic shocks, the COVID-19 shock has led to a pronounced substitution from food away from home towards food at home.
Inflation-adjusted expenditures at grocery stores and other retailers, described as food at home, were 6.5% higher in February 2020 compared with February 2019. The same spending was 18.8% higher in March 2020 compared with March 2019. Comparing spending for the same month accounts for seasonal food spending patterns.
Inflation-adjusted February 2020 expenditures at eating-out establishments, restaurants, school cafeterias, sports venues and other places, were 39.3% lower than February 2019 expenditures. March 2020 food-away-from-home spending was 51 percent lower than March 2019 spending.
During the Great Recession of 2007-09, expenditures on both food at home and food away from home decreased, with the largest decrease in February 2009.
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