The first-ever Food Day will be celebrated this Monday, October 24 as a national effort to eat better and be healthier. The event is supported by Slow Food USA, the Center for Science in the Public and other groups that advocate for consuming better food. The Food Day slogan, “It’s Time to Eat Real, America,” aims to inspire people not only to eat healthy, but to speak out in favor of healthy food.
Organizer and vegetarian food blogger Ellen Kanner said that Food Day is based on the concept behind Earth Day – that is, a movement meant to inspire real change and encourage people to take action to revise their dietary choices, not to simply raise awareness.
The Food Day website lists six objectives for the event, along with tips for how to achieve these goals:
– Combat dietary disease by promoting healthy foods, and stop food manufacturers from marketing junk food to children
Diet-related diseases like diabetes and obesity are becoming increasingly common, especially in children, with two-thirds of adults and one-third of children suffering from weight problems. Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, and affects children of all races and socioeconomic classes. Children grow up with cartoon icons persuading them to eat fatty, sugary and salty foods, rather than teaching them the benefits of eating fresh vegetables and whole grains. Though the sale of unhealthy foods to children has been limited through methods such as companies’ revision of marketing strategies and removal of soda from school vending machines, marketing aimed at kids can improve to promote healthy behaviors.
To add more healthy items to your diet, Food Day suggests eating more whole grains, skipping packaged foods and buying low-fat dairy products. Taking a step further, the government could ban trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated oils, found in items like peanut butter and snacks, and set tighter regulations on the sodium content of food.
– Ensure that healthy food is available to more people and that less people suffer from hunger
A healthy diet can negate or even reverse several health risks, including heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, 11 percent of the country’s population lives in areas designated as “food deserts”, regions without a grocery store within walking distance, and an estimated 50 million Americans struggle with hunger. These food deserts often have a high population of fast food restaurants, which deprive residents of access to healthy ingredients to create a balanced meal, and mislead them into thinking that eating out is cheaper than cooking. Statewide initiatives in states including California and New York, have provided successful ways for low-income Americans to gain affordable access to healthy food. Measures include providing incentives for inner-city convenience stores to offer healthy alternatives, helping grocery stores access fresh produce, and rewarding food stamps users with double points when they buy healthy items.
– Support sustainable farmers and agriculture and reduce subsidies given to large agricultural businesses, support fair wages and comfortable standards for agricultural workers, and revolutionize factory farms to protect animal welfare
Currently, the federal government provides farmers with monetary subsidies when their crops – mainly rice, soy, wheat, corn and cotton – are doing well. In other instances, money is driven away from the U.S. market by imported products. By shifting American consumers’ money to buy domestic products instead of imported food, the American economy would receive a boost. Food Day believes that some of this government money should be redirected to reward sustainable growers and fuel their small businesses.
Farm workers labor under harsh conditions, including working around harmful pesticides and chemicals. Federal protections for farm workers do not include overtime pay, minimum wages, or mandated breaks. Meat processors often work under high temperatures and with machinery and knives at a fast pace, sustaining a variety of injuries. Similarly, animals living in meat houses live under uncomfortable conditions, confined to battery cages or small pens. Government regulations should be improved for both livestock and food workers, ensuring increased safety and more humane conditions for people and animals alike.
To participate in the first-ever Food Day, go to foodday.org to see a listing of community events. If there are no events in your area, take small steps toward improving your diet for your benefit or for others’ – adopt a vegetarian diet full-time or part-time, buy organic produce, cook a meal from scratch instead of eating out, and stock up on whole grains in bulk. Food Day also has a petition on its website to make its goals visible and heard by Congress – sign the petition to join the cause!
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/tenerife/1452161601