One hundred years ago, putting food on the table involved hours of back-breaking labor and hours of preparation time. As a result, meals were appreciated and hunger a familiar twinge.
Today food is so abundant and easy to come by that food waste dominates municipal solid waste. In the United States, half of all the food produced is wasted—left in the field to rot, unsold on supermarket shelves, thrown away by the restaurant industry, and discarded by consumers at home.
Today food is also responsible for our latest epidemic—obesity. Two-thirds of adults and 1/3 of children are overweight, and our ability to address this issue is often met with conflicting messages. While the dangers of poor eating habits are well-documented, we are bombarded constantly about the pleasures of poor eating decisions. Even the most conscientious parent has a difficult time steering their children away from junk food when a burger, fries and a soft drink are labeled a “Happy Meal.”
Today most adults work outside the home and do not believe they have time to prepare a meal. After work it is so convenient to pick up food on the way home or pop something in the microwave. Ironically, most people spend close to 40 hours a week in front of the TV—a typical work week. There is a direct correlation between television time and obesity. The TV industry wants us to watch more TV, and the food industry wants us to eat more food. And advertising is the link between the two. The food and advertising industry understand how to make food as desirable as possible. The food industry has become so successful, it is creating a larger market for itself—larger people need more food just to sustain their weight.
While we are facing an epidemic, we seem to put our resources in the wrong hands. Remember the food pyramid? That was designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which supports the meat, sugar, dairy and cereal industries. Farm subsidies also go towards the lowest quality food-- corn syrups, animal feed and processed flour instead of fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts.
If this trend continues, the food industry could become the next tobacco industry.
Although this is an epidemic, our inability to fight it is a failure of epidemic proportions.