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The High Cost of Cheap Food

July 15, 2010

In a disposable society, we tend to place value on convenience, quick fixes, and fast food.  Yes, fast food is popular because it’s cheap, quick, and can be thrown away.  We toss the wrapping, cutlery, containers and leftover food as easily as we cruise through the drive-in.  The U.S. also has a bad habit of excessive waste as a result of overproducing mass quantities of food. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says, in a new study, that 40 percent of what farmers grow ends up in the garbage.  This article states, “The food we toss consumes 4 percent of all U.S. oil and more than 25 percent of our fresh water. Food rotting in landfills produces methane, a potent climate-changing gas. Not to mention the energy spent first delivering, then hauling away uneaten food.” 

Not only is this overproduction of food in the U.S. bad for our planet, it’s also bad for our health. 

From this complex study, NIH scientists came up with their "push" hypothesis; “excess food pushes its way onto plates, the little bit more that people eat makes them overweight, and the rest goes in the trash or gets wasted along the way”.  The overproduction of food thereby becomes a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. 

With agricultural subsidy programs that reward overproduction, and a food industry that is profit driven, producing a lot of cheap, high-calorie food items; change needs to come from the source.  What if government subsidies were given to small organic farmers instead of Big Ag and there were more regulations on how the food industry can market their products?  Do you think we would see a shift in this complex issue of food waste and the "push" hypothesis?

How would you change the production model?  What is your solution to the high cost of cheap food?