Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Environmental Sciences

Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Joshua Farley

Second Advisor

Anaka Aiyar

Third Advisor

Bradley Bauerly


Agricultural efficiency, ecologically sustainable diet, food insecurity, market inefficiencies, SNAP


The United States agrifood system is associated with high ecological costs, while simultaneously failing to meet the caloric and nutritional requirements of residents. In this paper, it is asserted that agricultural efficiency must be redefined as meeting nutritional needs while minimizing ecological harm. A cost and emissions estimate of providing the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan to all U.S. residents is measured at approximately $1.06 trillion with current market prices, paired with 659.13 million metric tons of associated greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Following this, linear programming is utilized to minimize financial cost and ecological impact (using GHG emissions as a proxy) to design a diet that meets nutritional and planetary needs. The goal of the model is to calculate an illustrative cost estimate of providing all U.S. residents with an ecologically sustainable and healthy diet for free. Providing said diet to all U.S. residents is determined to cost approximately $1.5 to $1.8 trillion (with the latter value incorporating Organic price premiums), with 48.3 million metric tons of associated GHG emissions in the scenario of local, agroecologically grown food and 80.5 million metric tons of associated emissions with conventional agriculture. The average American diet, applied to all residents, would be expected to accumulate a cost of $1.6 trillion and 1.45 billion metric tons of GHG emissions. The “real cost” (incorporating the EPA’s “social cost of carbon”) of the current U.S. diet comes to $37.72 trillion, compared to $8.2 trillion for the Thrifty Food Plan diet, $3.6 trillion for a sustainable and healthy diet produced through conventional agriculture, and $3.06 trillion for said diet produced through local, agroecological means.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Available for download on Saturday, May 17, 2025