The High Price of Low Cost Processed Food

Abstract: The cost of processed food in the US is affordable and much lower than other developed countries. Processed foods are efficiently mass-produced in non-perishable forms to increase shelf-life and availability. This is a great achievement by many sectors in the food supply chain. The consumption of processed foods has consistently increased among US adults in the last two decades. Cheap processed food available to the population today is strongly flavored and colored, often artificially, to make it more palatable. This has made meeting the minimum calorie recommendation by the FDA easier. However, the overconsumption of these cheap processed foods is one of the major contributors to healthcare, education, and socioeconomic concerns in the US.

The US has the shortest Healthy Life Expectancy, according to the WHO, and highest healthcare costs among all the developed countries. Energy-dense foods tend to be cheaper and unhealthier than low-energy density foods like vegetables and fruits. A high consumption of processed foods can lead to higher risk of depressive symptoms. Malnourished children are more likely to perform poorly in tests of cognitive ability, impacting their productivity as adults. Cheap and energy-dense foods are a priority for low-income households and may explain higher rates of obesity and diabetes in such groups.

With the objective of ensuring healthy lives for all per the UN Development Goals, we intend to investigate the impact of cheap food in the US. Additionally, we will analyze the supply chain disparities of high and low cost foods, investigating inequality within the US.

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