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USDA: Eating Away From Home Drops 51 Percent in March

According to USDA, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders have dramatically impacted Americans’ food spending.

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) says that 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 percent higher in February 2020 compared with February 2019.

The same spending was 18.8 percent 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 percent 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.