How Much Do Americans Spend on Food?

April 2, 2011

This incredible infographic comes via the people at Civil Eats and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. It provides the basis for a lot of interesting discussions. The numbers on it reflect the percentage of the money we spend that goes toward food.

In America, it's 6.9 percent (that puts us at the lowest in the world). What are the implications of this? First of all, Americans do not understand the gravity of the food crisis. For example, if the price of bread increases from $2 to $3 most Americans would not notice the difference because it makes up such a small percentage of our expenses. That same increase in price in Algeria (where more than 40 percent of expenses go to food) could be devastating. In countries where people spend more on food, the increases in staple food products this year have affected people a lot more. That 6.9 percent is also quite significant in terms of what we as Americans prioritize.

One of the amazing things about the last 50 years has been the reduction of food prices, making everything more affordable for everyone. We don't have to spend as much on food because everything has become so cheap. At the same time, it raises questions about what we're actually getting for our money. That same food, cheap as it is, actually contains much less nutritional value. What we as Americans don't spend in food, we might end up spending on health-related expenses, stemming from higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

My point is that Americans spend less money on food than any other country in the world. Much less. We get what we pay for. Spending the extra money on healthy/ nutritious food could prevent consumers from having to spend more money on health care and other expenses later on. For the interactive map, click through to the Civil Eats site. What do you think? Should Americans spend more money on food and less on other things?

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