Despite A Little Progress, No Healthy Diet for Billions; FAO

Despite A Little Progress, No Healthy Diet for Billions; FAO

Billions of people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet even as Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest cost of a healthy diet, according to the latest indicators from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)  .

When Latin America and the Caribbean had the highest cost of a healthy diet at 3.89 dollar per person per day in 2020, Asia had 3.72 dollars, Africa $3.46, Northern America and Europe $3.19 and Oceania 3.07 dollars, said the FAO in the country to country indicatordeveloped with critical inputs from researchers at Tufts University and the World Bank. 


The indicator showed that Asia witnessed the highest surge in the cost of a healthy diet (4.0 percent) between 2019 and 2020. Oceania (3.6 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (3.4 percent), Northern America and Europe (3.2 percent) and Africa (2.5 percent) followed Asia.

The FAO mentioned that almost 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020 – an increase of 112 million more people than in 2019, reflecting the higher costs of a healthy diet in 2020. This was mainly driven by Asia, where 78 million more people were unable to afford this diet, followed by Africa (25 million more people), and to a lesser extent by Latin America and the Caribbean and Northern America and Europe (8 and 1 million more people, respectively). 

In 12 countries, all of them in Africa, more than 90 percent of the population cannot regularly afford a healthy diet. The same is true of more than half the population in 53 countries for which data is available. In 26 countries that figure is less than 1 percent.


The set of indicators has now been made available for all to view and download on FAO’s easy-to-use data hub. FAOSTAT is the world’s largest data platform for food and agriculture with around 20 000 indicators covering more than 245 countries and territories.

The data serves as a reminder that even if the world has made progress towards providing enough calories to feed the global population, there remains a long road ahead to sustainably nourishing all people, everywhere.

“Putting an end to hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms (including under nutrition, micro nutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about more than securing enough food to survive: What people eat must also be nutritious,” said David Laborde, Director of FAO’s Agrifood Economics Division. “Yet a key obstacle is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of people around the world.” 

“Tracking the cost and affordability of healthy diets is a step-change towards recognizing the need to nourish and not just feed the world,” said FAO’s Director of Food and Nutrition, Lynnette Neufeld. “This new methodology also provides us with the starting point to generate locally relevant evidence to guide policy and programmes to make healthy diets affordable for all people, at all times.”


The availability of these indicators at the global, regional and country level now sets the stage for increased accountability, using timely data on retail prices of nutritious food items in all countries of the world. Future work will accelerate price data updates.

This initiative is part of the broader commitment that FAO has to generate evidence to advise countries on their food and nutrition policies. FAO encourages its Members and all stakeholders to expand the computing and reporting of these indicators to the sub national level, thereby contributing to the pursuit of more tailored policies and programmes to have greater impact on the ground. FAO and the Government of Pakistan are already working on such an approach.


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