It's time to fix our broken food system. Over the course of the next six months, we hope to create what will be a huge grassroots mobilization for changing what Americans eat -- and what the food industry produces -- for the better.
Let me introduce you to Food Day, which will be celebrated on October 24th.
First some background. Many people know my organization, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as a leading advocate for better nutrition and food safety. (Best known for publicizing our famous studies of movie theater popcorn and restaurant food, we've also led the fight for nutrition labeling on food packages and restaurant menus.)
As many also know, the typical American diet is basically killing us, slowly. Very few of us are eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, beans, or whole grains we need for good health. And far too many of us are consuming far too much saturated fat (much of it from factory-farmed, grain-fed beef), sugar (mostly from soda and other sugary drinks), and salt (in processed and restaurant meals).
But nutrition is only part of the story. And its time for nutrition advocates to start working more closely together with people who have been working to fix other food problems, such as hunger, wasteful farm subsidies, pollution and animal cruelty related to factory farming, and so on. It turns out that the diet that is prematurely killing so many of us is also hard on taxpayers, the environment, farm animals, and the quality of life in rural America.
Our goal on Food Day is to inspire people all over the country to organize thousands of events on October 24 to celebrate healthy, delicious eating and to solve local communities' food problems. Those events could range from small events in homes and classrooms, to massive rallies in public parks, to hearings in city councils and state legislatures. Food Day events might include a vegetable-recognition contest in a kindergarten, a healthy potluck dinner with friends featuring locally sourced ingredients, a spirited debate about agriculture policy at a college, and picketing a soft-drink bottler or fast-food restaurant.
We've modeled Food Day on Earth Day. Two terrific food advocates in Congress, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), serve as honorary co-chairs. And some of the most prominent food policy thinkers serve on a diverse Food Day Advisory Board, including author Michael Pollan; former Surgeon General David Satcher; professors Walter Willett, Marion Nestle, and Kelly Brownell; and prominent chefs such as Dan Barber and Nora Pouillon.
For Food Day 2011, we've identified five key priorities:
• Reducing diet-related disease by promoting healthy foods
• Supporting sustainable farms and stopping subsidizing agribusiness
• Expanding access to food and alleviating hunger
• Reforming factory farms to protect animals and the environment
• Curbing junk-food marketing to kids
It's time to both eat real and improve our communities' and country's food policies! And I hope you will join tens of thousands of Americans in planning Food Day events in your college, church, school, hospital, health department -- or at home. In the coming weeks, check FoodDay.org for Food Day events that might be scheduled near you and tell us what you're going to do.
It's all connected: The meals we eat, the foods we grow, the policies we form, and the impact we have. Let's have a great Food Day to make it happen.
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., is executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the founder of Food Day.