Today marks the celebration of the second annual Food Day, a day hosted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). This year, food day will be celebrated by people across the nation who have organized almost 3,000 events. These events will range from cooking classes to food flash mobs to talks on important food topics. Food Day has five main focuses.
- Promote safer, healthier diets: Increasingly, our nation struggles with the epidemic of obesity. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are considered overweight or obese, and these numbers are only predicted to rise. Every year we spend approximately $147 billion on healthcare for diet-related diseases. Only by promoting healthy diets and educating both children and adults about what healthy eating looks like.
- Support sustainable and organic farms: Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, agriculture has become increasingly mechanized and large-scale. The use of pesticides has also increased. These changes have in turn inspired the move towards organic agriculture and sustainability which emphasize practices which utilize fewer pesticides and will cause less damage to the earth. These sustainability measures are particularly important given predicted increases in population over the next couple of decades.
- Reduce Hunger: Near constant discussion of the obesity epidemic can obscure the issue that hunger still plays in this country. An estimated 50 million Americans are “food insecure,” meaning they are close to hunger. Additionally, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) provides, on average, only $4.30 per person per day.
- Reform factory farms to protect the environment and animals: Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), large scale farms that house tens of thousands of animals at a time, have an enormous impact on the environment. These establishments produce massive amounts of waste, which is often spread on neighboring fields and can seep into the environment. Additionally, CAFOs often prophylactically treat animals with antibiotics to prevent diseases that result from crowded conditions. The overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which in turn can be transmitted to humans, causing devastating illnesses.
- Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers: While farm work is grueling and difficult, the pay is minimal and individuals who labor in the fields have salaries that vary from $17,000 to $24,000, depending upon the state. These workers are also not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which means they are not guaranteed basic protections other workers are afforded, including child labor protections. It is not uncommon for children as young as 12 to work 10- and 12-hour days, performing back-breaking work, harvesting fruits and vegetables in 100-degree heat.
Food Day should be an important day for all Americans because all of us need food to survive. Food cuts across cultural and economic boundaries, uniting us. The creation of a food system that is more fair and sustainable is something that we should all aspire to.