The food we eat plays a central role in our health. The epidemics of our time – obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes – are closely linked with unhealthy eating habits. But eating healthy is also expensive, making it a particular challenge for 12% of US households, who worry about being able to afford enough food each month.
Cheap Foods Lead to Diseases
For the 41 million Americans who live in these households, a common coping strategy is to buy cheaper and less healthy food to increase their food budgets. However, over time, this unhealthy diet can have a significant impact on human health. Children living in unsafe families have two to four times as many health problems and are less likely to reach their academic potential. Pregnant women who are unsure of their diet are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and give birth prematurely or be underweight at birth. Adults with unsafe diets are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
The problem doesn’t stop there. Once you have had one of these diseases, food insecurity often complicates the treatment of the disease. One in three Americans with chronic disease has problems getting food, medicine, or both. Additionally, stress from worrying about where your meals come from is associated with depressive symptoms, making complex illnesses difficult to manage. It is therefore not surprising that food insecurity is expensive. On average, people living on unsafe foods in the United States spend an additional $ 1,800 in medical expenses or $ 77.5 billion in additional health care costs each year.
Hunger in the United States
The United States has some of the most stable programs in the world for people experiencing hunger. For example, the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helped 20.5 million households increase their food budgets. Recently our research team wanted to know whether SNAP saves money on health care costs. In a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, we found that individuals registered with SNAP had an average of $1,400 per year lower health care cost than similar individuals not registered with SNAP. is.
However, the White House has proposed a $193 billion cut in SNAP over 10 years – a reduction of more than 25 percent – that would drastically impact the ability of many people to buy food for themselves and their children. Could these layoffs cost more than they saved? As the benefits of SNAP diminished in 2013, we saw an increase in hospital admissions due to very low blood sugar, possibly because diabetics were running out of food, adding to millions of additional health care costs.
SNAP works. It was designed to and does, reduce food insecurity in the United States. We’re now learning that SNAP can protect health too. This is why SNAP layoffs can be so devastating. These cuts not only put millions of people at risk but could worsen our health systems and harm public health. With so many stakes, there’s no point in cutting SNAP.
Supporting Farmers Means Supporting our Health
The true price of cheap and unhealthy food has stopped a public health crisis and environmental damage, according to the high-level commission. It said that within 10 years the UK’s food and agricultural system must be changed radically and sustainably.
The Commission’s report, welcomed by Environment Minister Michael Gove, concluded that farmers should be able to move from intensive agriculture to greener and greener production, grow grass and grow more legumes and legumes. It also said the National Nature Service should be established to enable young people to work in rural areas and, for example, tackle the climate crisis by planting trees or restoring swamps.
“Our own health and the health of the planet are closely linked, [but] that link has been severed over the past 70 years,” wrote the report by executives from agribusiness, supermarkets, food supply companies and health and environmental groups. That includes conversations with thousands of villagers.
“Time is running out. The actions we will take over the next 10 years are critical: restore and regenerate nature and restore the health and well-being of people and the planet,” said the commission commissioned by RSA. , a group that focuses on pressing social challenges. .
The commission said most farmers believe they can make big changes in five to ten years if they get the right support.
“Farmers are very adaptable,” said Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA Commission and organic growers in Wales. “We have to live with changes every day of our life.
“We really want farmers to feel in the driver’s seat and be a force for change. Right now, a lot of farmers are feeling in trouble and getting bad. But without sustainable and safe agriculture in the UK, we won’t survive.”
The commission has for decades criticized government policies that target cheaper food and promote an increase in obesity and other health problems. “The real costs of doing this are borne only elsewhere in society – in a devastated environment, where health is deteriorating and main roads are impoverished,” the report said.
Organic farming and agroforestry
Pritchard said the UK has the third cheapest food basket in developed countries, but also the highest food poverty in Europe in terms of people who can afford a healthy diet. Diet-related type 2 diabetes costs £ 27 billion a year, he said.
The commission also states that agriculture produces more than 10% of Britain’s climate heating gases and is the biggest destroyer of wildlife. The abundance of major species has decreased 67% since 1970, and 13% of species are threatened with extinction.
To deal with this crisis, the commission said environmental agricultural practices such as organic farming and agroforestry, which combine trees with crops and livestock such as pigs or laying hens, need to be supported.
The Commission also adapted a scientific diet published recently for the UK that was nutritious and environmentally friendly. While and other studies recommend major cuts in meat consumption, Pritchard said, “There needs to be a strong argument [in the UK] to support sustainable beef and lamb in places where grass is best grown.”
Planetary healthy diet
A diet called a healthy planetary requires more nuts and legumes in its diet, and Pritchard says these vegetables and many more can be grown in the UK. Hazelnuts and walnuts are native to England, and some farmers now grow crops such as lentils and quinoa, as well as beans and peas.
The commission said the government must develop a plan to place the province and the people who live there at the heart of a green economy.
“[Brexit] offers an opportunity to transform our food and agricultural systems every 50 years, but we must act now: extreme weather conditions make immediate radical action on the environment essential,” said Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of the RSA commission. and is also a senior state councilor.
Gove said, “This report raises very important questions. We know it is in the interest of farmers and landowners to shift to a more sustainable model. He added that the government’s Agriculture Law gives farmers public money for the public.” Goods will be appreciated and new food inspections “from branching farms” will ensure everyone has access to a healthy British diet.
The report was supported by the Labor Party and Liberal Democrats. Green MP Caroline Lucas said, “This monumental report is a powerful and detailed account of the ecological transformation of our food and agricultural systems that we so desperately need – and where to start.”
The commission said new non-profit banks should be established to fund farmers investing in new practices.
As Brexit uncertainty worries farmers, the Commission urges ministers not to postpone political and trade decisions again and commit to ambitions for the future by January 2020. In addition, schools, hospitals and prisons must buy sustainably produced British food.
Prof. Joanna Price, Vice Chancellor of Royal Agricultural University said: “This report provides a fair picture of the challenges and contains some bold ideas for overcoming them. We agree that agriculture can be a force for positive change and rural communities can thrive as engines of a green economy. “