True Cost of Food: Measuring What Matters to Transform the U.S. Food System

The True Cost of Food in the U.S.
In the U.S., food costs more than our receipt at the grocery checkout. Our food system rings up immense “hidden costs” from its impact on human health, the environment, and social and economic inequity.
Consider this: In 2019, American consumers spent an estimated $1.1 trillion on food. That price tag includes the cost of producing, processing, retailing, and wholesaling the food we buy and eat. It does not include the cost of healthcare for the millions who fall ill with diet-related diseases. Nor does $1.1 trillion include the present and future costs of the food system’s contributions to water and air pollution, reduced biodiversity, or greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change.  Take those costs into account and it becomes clear the true cost of the U.S. food system is at least three times as big—$3.2 trillion per year.
BY THE NUMBERSThe way Americans eat and produce food costs nearly $2 trillion in health and environmental expenditures alone—and that cost disproportionately burdens communities of color.Americans pay that cost even if consumers don’t see it at check-out, and, if we don’t change our food system, future generations will, too. What’s more, these hidden costs disproportionately burden communities of color, who face higher rates of diet-related diseases, have reduced access to water and sanitation, and often lack livable wages as producers and workers in the food system.

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