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NPR The Salt: Where In The World Is The Best Place For Healthy Eating?

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"Where did the U.S. land?

We tied with Japan for 21st place, despite the fact that we have the most cheap food available. Our friendly neighbors to the north, Canada, took the 25th position out of 125 countries.

A group of researchers at OxFam, an anti-poverty nonprofit based in Oxford, England, concocted the ranking scheme to measure the best and worst places to eat around the world."

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014...

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  1. They say the ranking is about how easy it is for people to find a nutritious and diverse diet, but that's not exactly what they're measuring.

    I don't see how it would be easier to find a nutritious and diverse diet in Italy than in the US.

    I guess they're saying that if we have lots of McDonalds then that hurts our rankings, but in reality it just gives people more opportunity to eat unhealthy (or healthy, if they so choose).

    1 Reply
    1. re: calumin

      Oh, so you're going to make me read the actual report. :) I haven't had time to do so, but here's what it says on the first page of the press release about what was measured and what jiggers the final result.

      "The Good Enough to Eat Index asks four core questions and refers to two measures to help ascertain the answers, using the latest global data available. These are:
      1. Do people have enough to eat? - Measured by levels of undernourishment and underweight children
      2. Can people afford to eat? – Measured by food price levels compared to other goods and services and food price volatility
      3. Is food of good quality? – Measured by diversity of diet and access to clean and safe water, and
      4. What is the extent of unhealthy outcomes of people’s diet? – Measured by diabetes and obesity.
      Combined together, these scores give a rounded picture of how well people across the globe
      eat. Countries that might have been seated nearer the head of the table on the grounds of most people having enough to eat are placed further down due to other key factors like obesity or diabetes levels. Food price levels and food price volatility have also pulled countries like the UK down in the global ranking. Neither the US nor the UK makes the top dozen (10 percent)."

      http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/goo...

    2. Ireland in the #4 spot? Really?

      1 Reply
      1. re: juliejulez

        Ireland is tied for #8.

      2. "Best" is very subjective.

        1. How could they possibly leave out Germany?

          18 Replies
          1. re: linguafood

            There are so many flaws with this it is really laughable.

            1. re: jpc8015

              Please do share -- maybe I can appreciate the hilarity, too!!!

              Dutch and German eating habits are pretty similar, and Belgium, Switzerland and Austria are on the list, so.... I found it rather strange.

              1. re: linguafood

                My issue with this list is this...I live near Salem, Oregon. The heart of the Willamette valley. I can not drive a mile down the road in any direction without stumbling upon some roadside produce stand. During the summer months there is a farmers market within 30 minutes of my house every day of the week. Fresh, healthy food is literally everywhere. You will never convince me that someone in Amsterdam or Belgium has better access to healthy food than me. Now, there are as many McDonald's and Burger Kings in Salem as there are in any other city of 100,000 people. But I know for a fact that there is just as much garbage food in Amsterdam; I have seen it with my own two eyes.

                Now...if the author of this article uses someplace like Detroit as the basis for the American score then I might agree with their assessment. I just think that in large countries...USA, Canada, Mexico...there are far to many variables to try and shoehorn them into a score. This just appears to me that it is more worship of Western Europe.

                1. re: jpc8015

                  You're an exception, the study looks at the rule with "Four Core Questions:

                  1. Do people have enough to eat?
                  2. Can people afford to eat?
                  3. Is food of good quality?
                  4. What is the extent of unhealthy outcomes from diet?

                  The statistics on hunger in the US show that 1 in 6 Americans have issues with access to food - any food. Consider yourself fortunate to live in an area where good options are plentiful and you have the means to afford them. That's not the common experience in the US.

                  1. re: ferret

                    My point is that the US is so large with so many different regions that you would get horribly different results if you looked at different regions.

                    1. re: jpc8015

                      That's why it has a data point for U.S. and not "WIllamette Valley."

                      1. re: ferret

                        Right, but I could manipulate the data to reflect any preconception that I wanted, in the same way that I am sure the author did.

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          This isn't a puff piece, the study is based on the 4 questions I listed above. Is it perfect science? Of course no, but i's an attempt to quantify how countries address issues relating to health and diet. When 1 in 6 Americans has difficulty in regularly accessing food then looking at isolated areas of plenty isn't helpful.

                  2. re: jpc8015

                    One need not travel as far as Detroit to find places in the US where fresh and affordable food is difficult to access.
                    http://www.nacchostories.org/healthy-...
                    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/in...

                    However, that aspect is not where the US stumbles on this study compared to Western Europe. If you look at the four core questions I copied and pasted above in my earlier reply to calumin and then study the spreadsheet that summarizes the rankings, the US falls down on safe water supply and then most severely on the diabetes/obesity scores. I mean, the US has been the most obese country on the globe for many years until we were just overtaken in this dubious honor by Mexico in 2013. So in any ranking that includes obesity, the US is going to look bad.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Funny...I know the author of your first link. I spoke to her today in fact.

                      As much as I like and respect her though...Northern Marion County is no food desert.

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        While I have problems with the definition of "food deserts" myself, I readily see every day where access to good food is limited in the midst of plenty. I live in California, I was born in the Salinas Valley, Salad Bowl of the World and that's where I'm sitting today as I type. I imagine that like Salinas (Monterey County), rural residents of Marion County share some of the same problems of lack of transportation and dollars to access better food. Marion County has an even higher poverty rate than here.
                        http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/stat...

                        And that's one of the overall conclusions of this report, namely, there is enough food in the world to go around but there are still people who go hungry due to these challenges.

                    2. re: jpc8015

                      "I can not drive a mile down the road in any direction without stumbling upon some roadside produce stand. During the summer months there is a farmers market within 30 minutes of my house every day of the week. Fresh, healthy food is literally everywhere. You will never convince me that someone in Amsterdam or Belgium has better access to healthy food than me."

                      That last sentence of what you said is really arrogant especially coupled with the first sentence. In Amsterdam (The Netherlands really) or Belgium, you don't have to drive a mile to get access to fresh food. It's literally 3 doors down from you. I've lived in Brussels, go there constantly and will be moving there at the end of the year. I've also been in several towns in Belgium and have been to the Netherlands recently, for the first time. Pretty much anywhere in Europe, even in small towns, you don't have to "drive a mile" to get fresh food.

                      American Exceptionalism™ has got to stop.

                      1. re: cornedhash

                        The referenced article is nothing more that European exceptionalism.

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          Explain how, please.

                      2. re: jpc8015

                        And, let me just say there also exist towns in Europe where people do have to "drive a mile" or more to get access to fresh food. Someone I know on another site moved to the Scottish Highlands from Connecticut and she would talk about how difficult it was to get up to town with only one car between her and her husband. She also had issues growing any food because of the craggy soil that her house was on. So yes, this also does happen in Europe, but a lot of people do have good access by just walking into town or going next door to the Middle Eastern "bodega" next door to them.

                  3. re: linguafood

                    Germany is not left out. It's tied for #13.

                    See the report at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/publicati...

                    Review the data at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/publicati...

                    The rankings are visualized in full at: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/go...

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Behind Ireland? We'll, I'll be damned '-D

                      1. re: linguafood

                        The numerical score is only one point difference that separates the countries tied for #8 and the cluster tied for #13.

                  4. Wonder where they ranked Somalia

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: beevod

                      I might have missed it, but I didn't spot Somalia in the rankings. It may be that there's no WHO and FAO data, which are the statistics used to generate this study.

                      Here's more about Oxfam's work in Somalia,
                      http://www.oxfam.org/en/somalia

                    2. 1. Do people have enough to eat?
                      2. Can people afford to eat?
                      3. Is food of good quality?
                      4. What is the extent of unhealthy outcomes from diet?

                      One of my problems with this "study" is that the U.S. is a huuuuge country. And there are huge variances across states, heck across cities.

                      Still...an interesting read.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pedalfaster

                        The US is still a country though and that's how it's ranked, not by city-states.

                      2. More detailed summary from OxFam
                        http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/goo...

                        1. This is a random thought that occurred to me while reading this thread- in the US, it sure seems to me that a disproportionate percentage of people living near, at, or under the poverty level are obese, especially the children. I wonder if that's happening at the same level in other countries. Does the US have way, way more cheap empty-calorie-laden food than other countries?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: EWSflash

                            The report (or better report summaries) cite obesity as an issue in many countries, even ones that rate high overall in their ranking. And it is an issue that is growing in less developed countries as well.

                            USA ranks high in 'low cost of food', but it isn't just our junk food that's cheap.

                          2. On a tangent: I find The Salt a very interesting and informative blog. It's about the only salt I like and use!