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An American Fiber Crisis

Connie Spence
September 14, 2021

Dietary Fiber – the Quick Facts

  • Dietary fiber deficiency leads to thousands of deaths every year in America.
  • The U.S. food system supplies just half the dietary fiber that Americans need.
  • Access to dietary fiber is inequitable
  • AFA calls on the USDA to prioritize the production and delivery of dietary fiber-rich food crops so that all Americans have access to all the dietary fiber they need.

People are dying from the lack of dietary fiber in our food supply

The National Institute of Health reports that insufficient fiber intake is associated with many serious conditions and leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, cancer, strokes, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Studies show that even small increases in dietary fiber intake significantly reduce the risks of these conditions.1 Furthermore, it’s been estimated that suboptimal fruit and vegetable consumption accounts for the loss of approximately 139,000 American lives every year due to cardiovascular disease alone.2 It follows that delivering more fiber-rich plant foods to Americans would save lives.

Dietary Fiber is an Essential Nutrient

Dietary Fiber is a “super nutrient” that improves your gut microbiome. A hearty gut is vital to overall health, but 95% of the US population isn’t eating their Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of fiber. 3

According to the American Heart Association, total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams daily, but the average US adult consumes only half that amount. 4, 5

A Dietary Fiber Crisis in America

Americans aren’t eating enough plants

The USDA recommends fruits and vegetables comprise half of our meals,6 and for adults to consume 28 to 34 grams of dietary fiber daily.7 Yet, the CDC reports that only one in ten American adults eat enough fruits and vegetables.8 Furthermore, USDA experts report that 95% of Americans don’t get enough fiber, and on average, American adults consume only half the fiber they need. It’s worth noting that dietary fiber naturally occurs only in plant foods. 9

The current food supply delivers only about half the dietary fiber that Americans need to be healthy.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service reports that before accounting for wastage and spoilage, the US food system is delivering 13% fewer grams of dietary fiber needed per capita.10 With food waste in America estimated at 40%, that means the US food system is delivering approximately half the dietary fiber that Americans need. This corresponds to the dietary intake data reported above. Furthermore, a study across one California county showed that “ higher-income areas have twice as many locations with fresh fruits and vegetables compared to the lower-income areas,” suggesting that dietary fiber is even less available in poor communities.11

Non-Hispanic Black adults especially aren’t getting enough dietary fiber

A 2014 study conducted by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education found that dietary fiber consumption among non-Hispanic Black adults was 21% less than dietary fiber consumption among the wider U.S. adult population, and Black adults were consuming on average 44% of the recommended daily allowance.12

Here are some insights on the language around food inaccessibility by Malik Yakini:

Consider following these organizations and people

Only plant foods contain fiber

Only plant foods contain fiber, but federal farm spending tends to only be a few percentage to these foods year after year. 13,14,15,16,17,18,19

US Subsidies & Bailouts Favor Foods with Zero Fiber

Addressing the Fiber Crisis

The fair farm subsidies AFA advocates for could be a major solution to this public health crisis, by making high-fiber foods more accessible.

Our national farm policy has plenty of room for prioritizing eco-friendly, high-fiber plant foods that improve public health. It’s not a tall order; we simply need federal farm policy to align with federal nutritional guidelines.


  3. (Quagliani, Diane, and Patricia Felt-Gunderson. “Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 11,1 80-85. 2016)
  4. Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber (American Heart Association)
  6. Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf#page=26p
  7. Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf#page=146
  12. “Income and race/ethnicity influence dietary fiber intake and vegetable consumption, 2014”,
  13. US Government Payouts by Programs USDA ERS
  14. Crop Insurance Payments by Segment USDA RMA
  15. Market Facilitation Program Payments USDA
  16. Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 1
  17. Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2
  18. Discounted Grazing Rights on Public Land
  19. EQIP (Conservation) 50% of funds for livestock

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