JM | Mar 2, 2023

2 million Jamaicans cannot afford healthy diets – FAO report

Tamoy Ashman

Tamoy Ashman / Our Today

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Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy. (Photo: Captain Raju for Wikimedia Commons)

A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), detailing the cost of a healthy diet globally, indicates that two million Jamaicans are unable to afford a healthy diet.

The report, released on Wednesday (March 1), gathered information from 53 countries in 2020, assessing the cost of food items in different food groups that would form a healthy diet.

A healthy diet was defined by the FAO as one that offers a diversity of nutrient-rich food, aligned with dietary guidance.

Based on its findings, FAO said the cost of a healthy diet in Jamaica is J$1,025 per person per day, a hefty price tag that 66 per cent of the population cannot afford. Jamaica has an estimated population of three million citizens.

“Putting an end to hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms (including undernutrition, micronutrient 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.

He continued: “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.” 

Healthy diet in Latin Caribbean most unaffordable

The 2020 report found that despite progress made towards providing enough calories to feed the global population, almost three billion people cannot afford to eat healthy. This is an increase of 112 million more people than in 2019.

According to the FAO, the Latin Caribbean in 2020 had the highest cost of a healthy diet compared to other regions, at an average of US$3.89 per person per day.

(Photo: REUTERS/Daniel Becerril)

Asia has the second highest cost of a healthy diet at US$3.72, followed by Africa at US$3.46, North America and Europe at US$3.19 and the Oceania region at US$3.07.

Lynnette Neufeld, director of food and nutrition at the FAO, said tracking the affordability of healthy diets is a step towards ensuring that people are nourished and not just fed.

“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,” said Neufeld.

In 12 African countries, more than 90 per cent 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, less than one per cent of the population can afford a healthy diet.

The FAO therefore urged governments globally to create affordable and healthy food options for their citizens.

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