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Statisticians studying the demand for farm commodities have long made use of data collected by home economists, particularly those issued by the Institute of Home Economics of the United States Department of Agriculture in reports of research on family dietary levels and economic problems. They have also made extensive use of data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for revision of price indexes. The most comprehensive food survey yet undertaken was the 1955 Survey of Household Food Consumption, and apparently it was the first in which agricultural economists took an active part. Because of the widespread demand for current data on food consumption patterns, statistical data from the survey were published jointly by the Institute of Home Economics of the Agricultural Research Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service immediately after the data were tabulated, but a minimum of descriptive information accompanied the data. Early publication of the data enabled public and private researchers outside the Department to proceed with their own analysis at the same time that several research groups within the Department were carrying on studies. Although various facets of food use have been described and analyzed in the many articles and speeches prepared by our research workers, from the many requests received from agricultural economists for guidance in use of the new data, it appeared desirable to publish a comprehensive article designed especially for their research needs. The authors have been working with the basic data for the last 18 months, and this article summarizes their experience.


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