The average American does not meet the fruit and vegetable dietary guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because of several reasons. Cost, in particular, has been cited as a possible barrier to higher fruit and vegetable consumption, especially for low-income households, according to USDA's Economic Research Service. But a recent analysis shows that cost should not be a barrier.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an average American to need “2,000 calories per day, including 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables.” According to USDA consumption studies however, most Americans do not even come close to that goal, “consuming only 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables per day.”

ERS researchers calculated average costs to consume 24 fresh fruits, 40 fresh vegetables, 38 processed fruits, and 52 processed vegetables (including legumes), measured in cup equivalents. In 2013 the cost to consume the recommended 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables ranged from $2.10 to $2.60. Retail fruit and vegetable prices rose 2.2 percent from 2013 to 2016, and then a modest 0.4 percent during 2017 and 2018. Despite the small price increases, in 2016 ERS researchers found the price range was still the same. Eight out of 62 fresh and processed fruits cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent in 2016, and another 21 fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh whole watermelon, at 20 cents per cup equivalent, and apple juice (made from concentrate), at 26 cents, were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries were the most costly.


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