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A Place at the Table: Introducing HuffPost Food For Thought

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I'm delighted to announce Food For Thought, a new HuffPost section in partnership with Chipotle. As part of our site-wide focus on well-being and sustainability, Food For Thought will be examining our attitudes toward food, asking where our food comes from and how it's produced.

Food has always been an important part of HuffPost. Bringing together people from different parts of my life and facilitating interesting conversations -- preferably over food -- is part of my Greek DNA! And celebrating the importance of bringing people together over a good meal is a theme already central to the coverage of HuffPost Food and HuffPost Taste.

Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's Chief Marketing Officer, writes that "people are more aware than ever of the impact that food has on people, animals and the environment," an awareness aided by thought-provoking books like Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, as well as documentaries like Food, Inc., which pulled back the curtain on some of the unsavory ways food is produced and dishonestly promoted to the public. As Mark writes, Chipotle is undergoing its own transformation -- it has made big changes since the days when McDonald's was its majority investor -- joining the growing movement to bring more transparency to the conversation about how food is produced and prepared.

As the name suggests, Food For Thought will be committed to telling stories that urge us to look beyond the surface and think about the consequences of the food we eat, because there are plenty of forces and special interests at work that would rather you not ask too many questions -- at great cost to our environment, our health, and the planet. We believe that it's important to consider not only the food in front of us -- on our plates, in our kitchens, in restaurants we patronize -- but to look closely at the many stages of food production and preparation that are often invisible to us.

When we take that closer look, we see that food is related, directly and indirectly, to many of the issues and crises we are facing. Here are a few statistics to think about:

  • 69.2 percent of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, and 18.4 percent of adolescents between 12 and 19 are obese.
  • Crop losses due to insect damage nearly doubled between 1945 and 1989 despite a tenfold increase in insecticide use.
  • Since 1996, the percentage of genetically-engineered corn and soybean plants has quadrupled.
  • The relative price of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased by 40 percent since 1980. In the same period, the relative price of processed foods has gone down by 40 percent.
  • One in three children born in the United States in the year 2000 will develop diabetes.
  • Produce eaten in the Midwest travels an average of more than 1,500 miles.
  • In 2012, 49 million people in America were food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from.

At the same time, there's evidence that more people are thinking about what they eat, and the consequences of their food choices, than ever before. For example, four in 10 families say they are buying more organic food than they were a year ago.

Food For Thought kicks off with a big-picture report from Joe Satran on the surprising ways global warming is likely to shape agriculture in the coming decades. And as part of our partnership with the James Beard Foundation's Chef Action Network, we'll be featuring posts about sustainable food initiatives from acclaimed chefs such as Maria Hines and Jeremy Barlow, and food experts like Carolyn Steel and Jane Black, on topics ranging from sustainable food initiatives to the ways home cooks can have an impact.

Our launch day bloggers include urban farmer Will Allen on the unexpected ways fast food chains could positively affect urban communities, 30 Project founder Ellen Gustafson on solutions to some of America's biggest food-related problems, Food First executive director Eric Holt-Giménez on the growing food security and environmental sustainability movements, Food Tank co-founder Danielle Nierenberg on how small farmers around the world are having a big impact on their communities, Columbia University microbiologist Dickson Despommier on the proliferation of vertical farms and rooftop gardens in cities, and magazine publisher Maria Rodale on the benefits of buying organic.

As Mark Crumpacker writes, "Real change comes when people are empowered with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions."

So, welcome to Food For Thought. As always, please use the comments section to let us know what you think.

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