Food Day

Today is national Food Day (“If you don’t know, now you know…”), a day dedicated to shedding light on U.S. food-related issues and trying to instigate change in U.S. policies that don’t necessarily support healthy eating.  Before breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the average American rarely thinks of where their food comes and why some food ingredients are more prevalent in the foods that we eat (eh ehm..high fructose corn syrup anyone).  Below are the 6 Food Day priorities which Food Day hopes to promote.

1.  Reduce diet-related diseases by promoting healthy food

The foods that we eat should promote, not undermine our health.  Studies suggest that an individual can reduce their risk of death from heart disease by as much as 16 percent by eating one more fruit or vegetable a day; meanwhile the average American consumes 4.9 servings of fruit and vegetables, compared to the recommended 5 to 10 servings.  With that said, the number one place to start to improve your diet is to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.  Start with one category and go from there!

2. Expand access to food and end hunger
Some 50 million Americans are “food insecure” or near hunger, and about 11 percent of the poorest Americans without cars live in “food deserts”— where people are beyond walking distance to the nearest grocery stores. Ironically, the face of hunger in America and other western societies drastically differs from other areas of the world (but similar trends are also growing across the globe).  Ironically, in third world countries severe malnutrition is often depicted by emaciated children, meanwhile malnourished Americans are often overweight or obese.  

3.  Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
If your understanding of farm policy is remotely similar to mine 5 years ago, you may be oblivious to how farm policy influences the way we eat in America.  Amazingly, food policy has a lot to do with what most Americans put in their mouths.  Between 1995 and 2009, direct subsidies totaled some $246 billion (and yes I typed billion, no typo here!), or about $16 billion per year.  And most of this money went to large farms growing just five crops: corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, and rice — with corn being the most highly subsidized crop.  As you are beginning to look more closely at Nutrition fact labels and ingredient lists in particular, take note of the pseudo names for corn:  dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, starch, food starch, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, maltose, and many more.  These derivatives of corn are ubiquitous in our food system, and have led some to call us the corn people!

4.  Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
The foods we eat have a lot to do with protecting our environment and preserving the destiny of mankind on this earth.  You do not have to be a tree hugger or PETA activist to understand this principle.  Considering the mysterious phenomena of disappearing bees (Colony collapse disorder) and the drastic natural disasters of the past 5 years, it’s hard not to believe that environmental concerns shouldn’t be taken seriously.  
Each year, filling the 310 American stomachs requires about 9 billion chickens and turkeys, 114 million pigs, and 34 million cattle.  The way these animal farms operate contribute to an array of environmental concerns including:

  • Harmful gases that pollute the air and environment
  • Antibiotic use which could potentially contribute to a resistant bacterial infection
  • Over fertilization and pesticide use contribute to dead zones and the extinction of various fish species
  • Soil erosion contributes to loss of nutrients in the soil
  • Excessive use of natural resources
5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to children
While the childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980, more and more money is used in marketing unhealthy foods to children (an estimated $2 billion a year to be exact).  Although chain restaurants market heavily to children, over 90% of kids’ meals at the top food chains are too high in calorie.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad if children didn’t eat at these restaurants often, but the problem lies in that many families rely on fast food for meals on several occasions throughout the week.  Fast food meals is no longer a treat, and unfortunately the norm for most Americans. 
6.  Support fair conditions for food and farm workers
When we eat, we don’t think of how the food on our plates (or perhaps more often in the plastic or styrofoam containers) got there.  Modern day slavery is how it got there (well, I am exaggerating…but it is still an unfortunate and unethical situation).  One out of three factory farm worker earned less than the minimum wage of $7.25/hour between 2005-2009.  Additionally, an estimated 1.12 million children and adolescents under 20 years of age resided on farms in 2006, with about 590,000 of these youth performing work on these farms.

For more information, go to the Food Day website.

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