Today, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has made publicly available country-by-country indicators on healthy diets that show their cost – including by food group – and the amount of people unable to afford them. 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.
Recently, FAO did an extensive analysis of how many people can in fact afford a healthy diet, one that offers a diversity of nutrient-rich food, aligned with dietary guidance.
The result was sobering: Billions of people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet.
Now the indicators developed by FAO with critical inputs from researchers at Tufts University and the World Bank show, for example, that Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest cost of a healthy diet compared to other regions, at $3.89 per person per day in 2020, followed by Asia ($3.72), Africa ($3.46), Northern America and Europe ($3.19) and Oceania ($3.07).
Between 2019 and 2020, Asia witnessed the highest surge in the cost of a healthy diet (4.0%), followed by Oceania (3.6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (3.4%), Northern America and Europe (3.2%) and Africa (2.5%).
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% 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%.
Available for all
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 computing, monitoring and reporting of the global, regional and country level indicators on the cost and affordability of a healthy diet (CoAHD) is now institutionalized and will be regularly updated by FAO. This provides a powerful new benchmark for tracking global progress towards making healthy diets affordable to all.
These indicators rely on an integrated suite of data, computed based on variables including the retail prices of locally available foods and food-based dietary guidelines to country household income distribution patterns and the formulas required to establish purchasing power parities.