A new Rockefeller Foundation report calculates the true cost of food in the U.S., including the impacts on our health, the environment, biodiversity, livelihoods, and much more
The way Americans eat and produce food creates massive health and environmental expenditures—and that cost disproportionately burdens communities of color, according to a new report by the Rockefeller Foundation.
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.
Americans pay that cost even if consumers don’t see it at check-out. Communities of color 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. If we don’t change our food system, says the Report, future generations will take on these economic, health, and environmental burdens, too.
Kristen Weiss is a PhD scientist and long time vegan with a background in ecology, natural resources, and socially-conscious conservation. She has been a science communicator with Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions and the NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research Network, and continues to work at the intersection between science, society, wellness, environment, and ethics across a variety of media and platforms.
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