NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Adequate Nutrition On Less Than $2 Per Day

April 21, 2000

Even families who depend on a minimum wage breadwinner should never go hungry, according to a new report from researchers at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland College Park.

Updating a mathematical calculation known as Stigler's Diet Problem, researchers say an adult in the United States can buy all the ingredients for a complete, balanced diet for less than $2 a day.

  • A woman age 25 to 50 can buy all the recommended nutrients for $1.47 per day, or $535 per year.
  • A man the same age would need to spend $1.78 per day, or $650 per year.
  • The diet includes servings from each of the six food groups established by the USDA: fats, oils and sweets, milk, meats and beans, vegetables, fruits and grain products.
  • The diet supplied men with 2,900 calories and women with 2,200 calories.

George Stigler, a Nobel laureate in economics, first tried to find a low-cost diet that met all nutrient and calorie requirements in 1939. In their updated study, Saul Gass and Susan Garner Garille used the same 77 foods, updating the nutritional content according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended daily allowances for vitamins and the various food groups. The study results will be published in Operations Research, the journal of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS), an international scientific society.

Source: Charnicia E. Huggins, "Total Daily Nutrients Cost Less Than $2 A Day," Reuters Health, April 18, 2000.


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