This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
It’s an all-too-familiar truism: Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Last week, USDA unveiled the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and among the key recommendations was to increase the intake and variety of fruits and vegetables. A practical tip in the new Guidelines is to fill half of each plate of food with fruits and/or vegetables.
The price of food, combined with other factors (e.g., taste and convenience), helps shape the choices consumers make. My agency, the Economic Research Service, set out to examine what fruits and vegetables cost. Our report on food prices, released the day after the updated Dietary Guidelines appeared, also calculated what it would cost an adult per day to meet the Guidelines’ recommendations on fruit and vegetable consumption.
The costs we reported are average prices paid by American households for 153 fruits and vegetables in 2008, in different package sizes and brands and at various retail outlets including supercenters like Walmart, traditional grocers like Safeway and Kroger, and convenience stores. We calculated costs for fresh, canned, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables and 100-percent fruit juice.
An adult on a 2,000-calorie diet, we found, could satisfy the fruit-and-vegetable recommendations of the Guidelines at a cost of $2-$2.50 per day on average.
The lowest average price among the 59 fresh and processed fruits in our study was for fresh watermelon, at 17 cents per edible cup equivalent. The highest was for fresh raspberries, at $2.06 per edible cup equivalent. Mid-range prices included 64 cents for fresh peaches and $1.14 for canned apricots.
Among the 94 fresh and processed vegetables, the lowest average price was for dry pinto beans, at 13 cents per edible cup equivalent. The highest was for frozen asparagus cuts and tips, at $1.07. Mid-range prices included 62 cents for frozen broccoli and 52 cents for fresh-cut spinach.
Interestingly, processed fruits and vegetables were not consistently more or less expensive than their fresh counterparts. Canned carrots, for example, were more expensive than whole fresh carrots eaten raw, while canned peaches cost less than fresh.
You can access the report and view prices for all the products in the study, including price per pound, on our wesbite.