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How much do fruits & vegetables cost?

Cost, like affordability, is an idea that admits many possibilities. Examining food prices high-lights the range of possible ways to think about costs.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and at research institutes in France have compared prices for fruit and vegetables with prices for other foods on both a per calorie calorie, abbr. cal, unit of heat energy in the metric system. The measurement of heat is called calorimetry. The calorie, or gram calorie, is the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of pure water 1°C;.  and per nutrient nutrient /nu·tri·ent/ (noo´tre-int)
1. nourishing; providing nutrition.

2. a food or other substance that provides energy or building material for the survival and growth of a living organism.

They found that fruit and vegetables are relatively expensive per calorie, but relatively inexpensive per nutrient.

In principle, food costs could be measured in terms of any of the needs consumers are trying to fill by purchasing particular foods.

Sometimes their choices are made to fill caloric caloric /ca·lo·ric/ (kah-lor´ik) pertaining to heat or to calories.

1. Of or relating to calories.

2. Of or relating to heat.
 needs, sometimes to fill nutritional needs. But taste and convenience have to be satisfied, too.

The many attributes that food manufacturers advertise indicate the numerous dimensions along which consumers make choices. If consumers were concerned only with calories or, for instance, calcium intake, their behavior would look very different than typical consumer behavior.


With only one concern, consumers would specialize, choosing only the one food that is least expensive in terms of their single need.

Here, ERS ERS, See extended rotated side-bent.
 examines prices for two fruit and three vegetables in terms of the cost to households to satisfy Federal dietary guidelines dietary guidelines Cardiology A series of dietary recommendations from the Nutrition Committee of the Am Heart Assn, that promote cardiovascular health. See Caloric restriction, food pyramid, French paradox. .

Dietary guidelines recommend that a person who needs 2,000 calories per day consumes 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily (2 cups of green leafy leaf·y  
adj. leaf·i·er, leaf·i·est
1. Covered with or having leaves.

2. Consisting of leaves: Spinach is a leafy green vegetable.

3. Similar to or resembling a leaf.
 vegetables equals 1 cup of vegetables).

According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the Bureau of Labor Statistics Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

A research agency of the U.S. Department of Labor; it compiles statistics on hours of work, average hourly earnings, employment and unemployment, consumer prices and many other variables.
, in June 2008, a pound of apples cost $1.36 while a pound of carrots cost $0.87.

ERS used conversion factors published by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established in August 8, 1969. FNS is the Federal agency responsible for administering the nation’s domestic nutrition assistance programs.  to estimate prices per cup. These conversions also account for the portion of the foods that is likely wasted, such as the core of a head of lettuce or the peel of a banana.

The per cup cost of apples and carrots was found to be about 37 cents and 34 cents, respectively. A person needing 2,000 calories per day could meet the dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetables for under $2.50 per day selecting among these five produce items.
                                      Price, per      Price,
                                       pound (l)      per cup

Apples, red delicious                     $1.36        $0.37
Bananas                                   $0.63        $0.36
Lettuce, iceberg                          $0.86        $0.16
Tomatoes, field grown                     $1.81        $0.70
Carrots, short trimmed and topped         $0.87        $0.34

(1) Source: USDA, Economic Research Service using Bureau of Lab or
Statistics U.S. city average price data, June 2008. Prices are
national averages and may not reflect prices charged in particular
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Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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