Junk Food Costs Less Than Fruits and Vegetables: Are We Surprised?

Junk food is cheap, cheaper in fact than fresh, healthy food! Junk food has more calories than its cheaper, healthier counterparts, so poor folks gravitate to junk food to fill up. These sad, obvious, and true findings are contained in a study conducted and released by researchers at the University of Washington. Serious Eaters, what can we as a society do if anything to deal with this?

Healthy eating really does cost more, the New York Times reported.

According to the paper, "That's what University of Washington researchers found when they compared the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area. Calorie for calorie, junk foods not only cost less than fruits and vegetables, but junk food prices also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation. The findings, reported in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, may help explain why the highest rates of obesity are seen among people in lower-income groups."

The study's lead author Adam Drewnowski came to this obvious but very sad conclusion:

“If you have $3 to feed yourself, your choices gravitate toward foods which give you the most calories per dollar. Not only are the empty calories cheaper, but the healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive. Vegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods.”

So to summarize: Chances are pretty good that if you're poor you're going to opt for junk food that gives you the most calorie bang for your buck. You're more than likely to buy potato chips than carrot sticks. That in turn is going to lead to more poor folks becoming obese. Wow. This is a particularly knotty problem with no easy solutions. What would Michael Pollen say about this?