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The American Food Shortage You Knew Nothing About

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The United States simply is not growing enough vegetables to meet its needs, data collected by the USDA’s Economic Research Service indicates.

Around 1.65 cups of vegetables were available per person per day in the United States in 2013, even though dietary guidelines recommend a person consume 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables a day, NPR reported, using government data.

Even worse, the supply of vegetables in the United States has been falling since 2000. The amount of vegetables available per day to average Americans peaked at around 1.80 cups around the turn of the 21St Century. Since then, the supply of vegetables in the nation has decreased by around 15 percent, falling to 1.65 cups by 2013 (the latest year for which data is available). The USDA’s count includes both imported and homegrown produce available for commercial sale.

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Around 50 percent of the vegetables currently available in the United States are potatoes and tomatoes, and most people consume those in unhealthy forms such as ketchup, French fries and pizza, the report said. The third most common vegetable was lettuce.

“What I see here with lots of potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce … [is] that people are used to these items, and habits are hard to break,” Lindsey Haynes Maslow of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the radio network.

Dietary guidelines recommend eating a variety of vegetables.

The report also found that 87 percent of American adults failed to eat the recommended amount of vegetables between 2007 and 2010, according to recent CDC data. In Mississippi, only 5.5 of people ate enough vegetables and in California 13 percent did so.

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The United States vegetable supply would have to increase by 70 percent if every American started following the USDA’s dietary guidelines, NPR reported.

“We have a serious disconnect between agriculture and health policy in our country,” Marion Nestle, a nutrition researcher at New York University, told NPR. “The USDA does not support ‘specialty crops’ [such as vegetables] to any appreciable extent and the Department of Commerce’s figures show that the relative price of fruits and vegetables has gone up much faster than that of fast food or sodas.”

The government tells people to eat healthy food but is subsidizing other crops – such as corn and soybeans – “that end up in cheaper, less healthy processed food,” NPR said.

It looks as if those who want their families to eat healthy will have to grow a garden. If present trends continue, your garden could be the only supply of affordable vegetables your family has.

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