We need a secretary of food…

On December 11, 2008, in health policy, public health, by Karen Grepin

…or so says Nick Kristof in this morning’s NYTimes. He argues that the current department of agriculture needs to be renamed and refocused because it no longer makes sense, as he writes:

“A Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming. But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers. In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.”

Yesterday we bailed out the automakers, to the tune of many billions of dollars, but this is not new practice. The agricultural industry has been bailed-out for decades. According to Michael Pollen, quoted in the Op Ed piece:

“We’re subsidizing the least healthy calories in the supermarket — high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soy oil, and we’re doing very little for farmers trying to grow real food”

What this says to me is that not only is the choice of the next secretary of agriculture and important choice for the US economy, it is also an important choice for public health. How we subsidize the agriculture industry influences how we eat – and how people around the world make a living off of agriculture and get their calories.

I count myself among those 100% of “Americans” who eat (I am not American, just a resident) – pretty regularly in fact – and I think it is about time we see some real change with regards to food policy in the US.

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