October 19, 2017
Midwest farm with spring crop and red barn.

Poor Nutrition and Health Scores for the U.S.

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

When it comes to food sustainability and health issues, the U.S. ranks low—sometimes even last—on many key indicators, out of 25 countries. Those are the findings of the Food Sustainability Index commissioned by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, a private nonprofit apolitical think tank.

The Index covers three main areas: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges, with subcategories within each, such as food access, farming practices, land use, management of water resources, environmental impact of food production, and nutrition and health of the population.

Overall, the U.S. ranked 11th, but last compared to other wealthy, developed countries. France, Japan, and Canada had the highest overall scores, while India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt ranked lowest.

Here are some areas where the U.S. fell short (lower numbers are better). Out of 25 countries, the U.S was:

  • 23rd for food waste per person (more than 600 pounds per person per year).
  • 22nd for greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
  • 18th for water management (a nation’s effort to recycle water for agricultural use, initiated by the farmer, government, or international agency) and 23rd for water footprint (the amount of water utilized to produce main crops and livestock).
  • 10th for life expectancy.
  • 11th for percentage of population living under the national poverty threshold.
  • 19th for prevalence of overweight children and 23rd for overweight overall (followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).
  • 24th for physical activity levels (followed by China).
  • Dead last for high sugar consumption (with Mexico and Argentina close behind) and most fast-food restaurants per capita (followed by Australia).

Some possibly encouraging news: The U.S. tied as No. 1 in several policy initiatives—including ones aimed at mitigating climate change and encouraging physical activity, farmers’ markets, and composting and recycling—which, if carried out (an un­­certainty, to say the least, under the Trump administration), could go a long way in improving the more dismal scores.

Also see The Greatest (Public Health) Stories Ever Told.