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The cost is too damn high The first global survey of the price of healthy eating

One dollar and ninety cents

Anna Herforth

Anna Herforth is the lead author of Cost and affordability of healthy diets across and within countries, a background paper prepared for The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. In the paper, Herforth and her colleagues calculate the cost of getting enough energy, getting adequate nutrition, and getting a diet that meets healthy eating guidelines. The results are sobering.

All this is possible because the World Bank collects a massive amount of data in its International Comparison Program, including the market price of hundreds of food items. Governments and other bodies issue healthy eating guidelines that offer their considered opinion on what a healthy diet should look like. And at Tufts University in Boston, where Herforth has been working, they’ve been building models that can take the full range of what’s available in the market and calculate the cheapest way to meet the requirements of any specified diet. Put all that together and you discover that, globally, roughly three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet.

How should we respond? The paper concludes: “To make healthy diets cheaper, agricultural policies, research, and development need to shift toward a diversity of nutritious foods.”


  1. Cost and affordability of healthy diets across and within countries is published by FAO.
  2. The paper is part of the work of the Food Prices for Nutrition program at Tufts University. There is loads more information there.
  3. Here’s the transcript.
  4. Interstitial music by mmleys.

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  • S. Laurel Weldon
  • AgroBioDiverse
  • Ophélie Hémonin
  • Anna Josephson
  • William A. Masters


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  • Anna Herforth




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  • Thanks @EatPodcast for chatting about how high costs highlight the need for more diversity in the food system… And why it’s a good thing that we can eat bananas in Boston. #FoodPricesforNutrition @wamasters @Ian_Y_Bai @FAO @MaximoTorero…