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Many Americans Can't Afford to Eat Right
Date:11/22/2007

r people also assume a greater disease burden relative to their wealthier counterparts.

"Eating more fruits and vegetables would reduce the disease burden. That's why we have new guidelines. The science is very solid on that," said Diana Cassady, lead author of the first study, on food pricing.

"What the profession needs to do is figure out not just the science and appropriate guidelines but how to help people meet those guidelines," said Cassady, an assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of California, Davis.

Cassady's study first calculated the average cost of a "market basket" of fruits and vegetables based on the 1995 Dietary Guidelines' Thrifty Food Plan. They then compared that cost to the cost of a basket based on the 2005 guidelines. The survey was carried out at 25 supermarkets in Sacramento and Los Angeles across three time periods, which allowed for seasonal variations in fresh produce prices.

There was some good news: the 2005 basket actually cost 4 percent less than the 1995 basket, the researchers found. Fruits and vegetables were less expensive in low-income areas and in bulk supermarkets, the researchers noted.

However, a low-income family of four would still have to spend a very large percentage of its food budget on fruits and vegetables in 2005 to meet national healthy-diet guidelines.

"Americans typically spend 15 percent of their food budget on fruits and vegetables but based on our price survey, low-income families would have to spend 40 to 70 percent of their budget on fruits and vegetables," Cassady said. "We really need to rethink what kind of educational campaigns, what kind of advice we need to give low-income families. The food stamp allocation could and probably should be increased and the government can do even better bringing in more farmers' markets and very low-cost sources of fruit and vegetables."

The other study was conducted in Orange
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