Meal Prep

Do We Value the Food That Sustains Us?

Valuing FoodSpending five days with some of the most influential nutrition communication professionals in America has made us think. Do we value the food that sustains us? Is the low cost of food in America entirely a good thing? Why, despite that low cost, do we still have so much food insecurity?

Cheap Calories

Make no mistake. We have abundant, cheap calories at our fingertips in the U.S. Data from the World Bank says that U.S. consumers devote a lower share of their spending to food than any other consumers in the world. But even when calories are cheap, good nutrition can be quite expensive.

For the most part, what we pay for something is a measure of the value we see in it. So when we buy cheap calories, we demonstrate that we’re not putting a high value on the food we consume.

The Food We Waste

In fact, the numbers for U.S. food waste provide a degree of confirmation. Americans waste more food per capita than many other countries. For example, Canadians waste about 123 kilos per year per person. Americans waste more than twice as much – 278 kilos.

Canadians spend nine percent of GDP on food. Americans spend only six. We spend less and waste more.

Food Insecurity

And yet, those lower prices don’t bring us more food security. In the United States, 11 percent of the population lives with moderate or severe food insecurity. But for Canada, that number is only 4.4 percent.

It seems that we might do well to value the food that sustains us. Cheap food is not bringing us good health. It might be encouraging us to waste food. And it seems to do nothing to make us more food secure.

Click here and here for analyses of disparities in nutrition and health. For perspective on how we might more sustainably feed the earth’s population, click here.

Meal Prep, photograph © Ella Olsson / flickr

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January 22, 2020

2 Responses to “Do We Value the Food That Sustains Us?”

  1. January 22, 2020 at 10:23 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Sometimes I feel like with all the cheap, ingredient/additive-heavy ultraprocessed items in the USA, the national *tastebuds* have been altered as people go from item to item in search of the foods that satisfy cravings and ‘bliss points’, often consuming too much of something on the one hand and/or chucking half of what they eat away as they grouse along. In other places I have lived in or visited with less choice and less convenience, packaged items, people seem to feel more satiated with less and throw less away.

  2. January 22, 2020 at 10:26 am, David Brown said:

    “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” Thomas Jefferson

    What we consumers don’t realize is that the food supply is defective. The omega-6 linoleic acid/arachidonic acid content is excessive. Moreover, the scientists who inform public nutrition policy long ago concluded that this is not a problem. Based on studies that compare average intakes of the omega-6s to even higher intakes, they insist that excessive polyunsaturated fat intake is not excessive. And despite the fact that sugar and saturated fat intake has declined in recent decades, the powers that be continue to demonize these two nutrients. Google – anti-saturated fat campaign