Center for Public Health Nutrition

Food Prices

The United States has the most affordable food supply in the world. However, this doesn't mean that all food is "cheap". A key problem in our food supply is that while calories are cheap, nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, are costly. For most people, food prices are still a major consideration. Having a small food budget can mean relying on foods and drinks that have plenty of calories but few nutrients.

Some of the research at CPHN focuses on the issue of food prices.
In particular, we are interested in understanding how the cost of food relates to its nutritional quality. To do this we use retail price data in Seattle or use national data on food prices to better understand some of the economic issues that affect what people eat. In combination with nutrient profiling, our food price analyses can also identify what foods provide the best value in terms of nutrition.

Rising Price of Nutritious Foods in Seattle

In a recent study published in Food Policy, CPHN researchers found that while all food prices have risen substantially between 2004 and 2008, the price of the most nutrient-dense foods has risen the fastest. Nutrient-dense foods are those that deliver more nutrients per calorie, including whole grains, lean meats, low fat dairy products, vegetables and fruit. As shown in the following graph, the price of the highest nutrient density foods increased nearly 30 percent compared with a 16 percent increase for less-healthy foods including sweets, candy, soft drinks and fatty food. Figure: Rising Cost of Nutritious Foods

Selected Projects:

For More INformation

Pablo Monsivais, PhD, MPH
(206) 897-1475


The rising disparity in the price of healthful foods: 2004-2008
Monsivais P, McClain J, Drewnowski A. J Food Pol. In press. Available online 10 July 2010 abstract

Are the lowest-cost healthful food plans culturally and socially acceptable? Maillot M, Darmon N, Drewnowski A. Public Health Nutr. 2010 Aug;13(8):1178-85. abstract

Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet? Building a case for affordable good nutrition as the theme of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. research brief

The High Price of Low-Cost Foods Drewnowski A, Monsivais P. Nortwest Public Heatlh. 2008 Spr/Sum; 25(1) full text

The rising cost of low-energy-density foods. Monsivais P, Drewnowski A. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Dec;107(12):2071-6. abstract