On and around October 24th, Americans across the nation will be biting into apples in recognition of Food Day 2015. The Apple Crunch, as it’s called, began in New York City in 2012 as an activity intended to help raise awareness about eating better diets for our health and the environment.
Does a nation already obsessed with eating need a national day dedicated to food? Yes. We do. We need one day dedicated to “real food” because the sad truth is that the message of what constitutes a healthy diet is not getting through. It is not registering with us, but instead falling below the radar, crackling in the background like so much white noise.
Every health organization from the American Heart Association to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to the American Cancer Society advises us to eat more fruits and vegetables. Studies repeatedly show including more of these foods in our diets can improve our heart health, lower our blood pressure and even reduce the risk of cancer. In short, prevent much of the chronic illness we suffer with. Yet, research shows that fewer than one in 10 Americans consume the minimum daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables—that’s a big, whopping five servings.
We are told to limit or avoid “refined” carbohydrates (white bread, crackers, chips, bagels, donuts, cakes, cookies, etc), and include more whole grains (rice, barley, quinoa, etc). Yet, 17 percent of our food budget continues to go toward refined carbs and only 1.5 percent goes toward whole grains. The USDA recommends spending a fourth as much on refined grains and 7 times as much on whole grains.
We lead busy lives with hardly time to breathe, let alone prepare meals. No fret. Big Food is there. With marketing budgets exceeding $1.5 billion they woo our kids and ourselves to the table or the couch, or wherever it is we eat these days, including out. Their products are loaded with fat, sugar, and salt not by accident, but because our taste buds (and still “primitive” brains) find them irresistible, and are drawn back again and again, fork full after fork full. We sincerely believe we are eating healthy. Their boxes tell us so—natural, organic, no trans fats, etc. Healthy? Not a chance. It is why two out of three adults and one out of three children are overweight or obese. It is why we spend over $150 billion dollars annually on obesity-related illnesses. It is why 60 percent of Americans have hypertension or pre-hypertension, and 90 percent will ultimately end up with it.
Where is Big Broccoli when you need it? Of course, there is no Big Broccoli to blitz the airwaves with tempting ads. There is no veggie cartel pushing their lush produce. In fact, there’s little money to be made in fruits and vegetables, and the combined marketing budgets of the CDC and the USDA, a mere $51 million, pale next to Big Food’s mega-bucks. So, there is Food Day 2015 to inspire Americans to eat healthier, to illustrate that fruits and vegetables are affordable, to support local farmers, and to encourage eating lower on the food chain to help the planet.
This Food Day make a commitment to do one thing – just one thing. Empower yourself—dig a little deeper, learn more about real food.
- Read a book. Try: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, or The End to Overeating by David Kessler, or Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan, or The Third Plate by Chef Dan Barber
- Watch a movie: Forks Over Knives, That Sugar Film, PlantPure Nation, Super-size Me, Cowspiracy
- Visit a local Farmer’s Market: There are famer’s markets in all the surrounding areas.
- Prepare a meatless meal.
- Try one new fruit, vegetable or whole grain – something you’ve never had before
- Visit foodday.org and learn what other activities you can do or lead, like donating to the first national, online “real food” drive; take the 10-day local food challenge, or organize your own Apple Crunch.