Budgets are tight all over, but next time you get sticker shock at Whole Foods, consider this: Americans spend the least money, percentage-wise, on food out of every country in the world. Rising food prices have left many of us feeling the pinch, but for people in other countries, it's more like a punch to the stomach, at least according to USDA data recently translated into handy charts by Vox.
The graphs and maps show that Americans spend a mere 6.6 percent of their household budget on food eaten at home. Even if you eat out, that number only jumps to 11 percent. Compare that to countries like Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia where people spend nearly half of their income just to buy food. We even spend less on food than do other first-world countries like Britain, Canada, and Germany—all of which spend around 9 percent.
Income is a primary factor. As your income rises, it makes sense that the percentage you spend on food will drop. However, there are cultural factors involved too. For example, Indians spend less money on food than Russians, even though Russia has a higher average income. Vox credits this to what types of food each group prefers, the type of food subsidies offered, and how much people go out to eat.
But some wonder if America's relatively cheap food is a cause of the obesity crisis, and the USDA data show an interesting trend: While prices for oils, fats, and sugars have dropped, prices for fresh produce and meat have risen—beef recently reached an all-time high—which explains why a Twinkie only costs about 30 cents while an average Fuji apple costs around 70 cents. We may be spending the least amount of money on food, but it doesn't necessarily mean we're making the healthiest choices.
Chew on that the next time you're making a healthy meal with protein, vegetables, and a few sides.
What are your thoughts on this data? Sound off in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!