Apparently, “over-nourishment” is a thing. Perhaps you’ve seen the spate of coverage on the recently released 2016 Food Sustainability Index, compiled by the non-profit Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit. It’s been making the rounds. Headlines (none of which have been all that surprising) vary: “France tops global food sustainability index,” “US ranks low on food sustainability index,” and the like.
The index ranks 25 countries on nutrition, agriculture, and food waste. Here’s the sizzle reel: France took first place in overall performance, and also ranked first in both the “least wasteful” and “nutrition” categories. Also in the top three on overall performance were Japan and Canada, respectively. In the “sustainable agriculture” category, Germany came in first, followed by Canada and Japan in the second and third spots.
So, how’d the United States do? Here’s where we really performed: 19th for overweight children, 24th for prevalence of over-nourishment, and on food waste, third-last. According to the index, those rankings leave “room for improvement.”
Now, about that “over-nourishment” number. It’s simply defined as a type of malnutrition resulting from consumption of more than the necessary requirements for essential nutrients, or of more calories than needed to remain healthy. This makes the U.S. a case study in two truths: we are both overfed and hugely wasteful, consuming more than we need and wasting more food than 22 other countries on the list (twenty pounds per person, per month, according to the index). Let’s just take a moment to digest that.