Food Day is not just a day it’s a movement. Engaging in local or national efforts to ensure healthy, local and sustainable food supplies, can not only support food production through reforming factory farms, supporting fair working conditions for food and farm workers, and supporting sustainable farms but also promote safer, healthier diets through food and nutrition education while ending hunger. Food Day brings attention to the issues of food systems in our country by providing a chance for everyone to rally around these shared goals.
Everywhere you look these days, community gardens seem to be the trend in cities and towns throughout our country. This is great news considering less than 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 consume the recommended levels of total fruits and vegetables each day. At the same time, added sugars provide about 14% of total calories for the average American, and 21% for teenagers. We are basically eating a lot of processed low fiber foods that provide calories without many nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy and well. We are overweight and undernourished.
In fact, two out of three adults and one out of three children and adolescents in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. At a time when we are trying to reduce medical costs in our country, the annual medical cost for obesity is more than $150 billion, plus another $73 billion in reduced productivity. These costs are controllable through actions. Each community faces its own challenges. However, solutions should be based on local culture, history and resources. A good place to start is with kids in schools. Cooking with kids at home teaches them skills but many families are not cooking at home these days. Children who know where food comes from and how to cook meals will have a big advantage when it comes to being healthy. On average, kids in the U.S. receive only 3.4 hours of food and nutrition education per year at school. The time to act is now.
Community and home gardens are a good way to teach children about food and give them a sense of purpose in tending to the garden while watching the foods grow. Getting food education into schools provides a chance for every child to learn hands-on cooking and essential food skills. If every child has the opportunity to learn about, grow and cook food, they’d have the knowledge and tools to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. If you teach a child to cook, a lot of other things fall into place. Even if children learn how to make better choices in public venues, they are provided with food skills to advocate for their own better health. My recent quote in Women’s Health Magazine gives moms tips for choosing healthier foods when choosing fast food options. Parents should serve as role models.
Food matters to everyone. Together, we can tackle important challenges and improve access and availability of healthy foods throughout our communities, schools, restaurants, colleges and families. It just takes one day to get started in the right direction. Let that day be October 24th, 2014, Food Day.