Improving access to healthy, affordable foods can help prevent and reduce obesity among children and families. Yet many families do not have access to healthy affordable foods in their neighborhoods and communities. Food access is also an important component of food security, which is having consistent access to enough nutritious food for a healthy active life. In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, including more than 11 million children.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this number rose to the highest levels ever documented in the U.S. at 38%, with nearly 1 in 2 households with children impacted. Research in this area focuses on increasing access to healthy affordable foods through grocery stores, corner stores, restaurants, mobile food vendors, farmers’ markets, and other food outlets in low-access areas including lower-income communities in urban and rural areas.

Research & Publications See all

November 2021

Policy Approaches to Healthier Food Banking

People who rely on the charitable food system both want and deserve nutritious food and beverages that support their health. Yet a 2018 report by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that, on average, 25 percent of food bank distributions remain unhealthy. CSPI conducted research More

October 2021

Healthier Food Donation Guidelines for Retailers and Distributors

Nutritious donations are more important than ever: 60 million people turned to the charitable food system in 2020. Food banks rely on retail and distributor donations for about 30 percent of inventory, and often receive unwanted unhealthy food, like soda and candy. This resource was developed to help food retailers and distributors donate more nutritious More

September 2021

Supporting Wellness at Pantries (SWAP) Toolkit 2021

SWAP was developed in 2016 and revised in 2020 to align with the Healthy Eating Research Nutrition Guidelines for the Charitable Food System. Revised tools include: SWAP Toolkit SWAP and Alignment with the HER Nutrition Guidelines SWAP: Overview of a Stoplight Nutrition System for Food Banks and Food Pantries Steps for Getting Started Using SWAP More

July 2021

Promoting Equitable Expansion of the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot

The USDA Online Purchasing Pilot, which allows SNAP participants to shop and pay for groceries online, rapidly expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. From March 2020 to March 2021, the number of participating states increased from 5 to 47. This brief assesses whether the Pilot promotes healthy food access (using the criteria of availability and utilization) More