World Diabetes Day: The Food System and Human Health

World Diabetes Day: The Food System and Human Health

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From Danielle Nierenberg
I’m writing to you from California, where we’ll be hosting Food Tank’s Inaugural San Diego Summit, “Growing the Food Movement,” on Wednesday, November 14th!In honour of World Diabetes Day on November 14th, we’re reflecting on how our food system is deeply connected to human health. The World Health Organization now estimates the direct costs of diabetes at more than US$827 billion per year, globally. The health crisis is growing: the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014—rising from 4.7 percent to 8.5 percent prevalence among adults.
Food has become the main driver of human health costs, and this growing public health crisis demands a more sustainable food system.
One of our Summit panels is titled “Accounting for the True Cost of Food: Practices and Policies to Improve Sustainability,” and it will look at the cost of food from a systems perspective, inspired by new framework from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood).
Through this holistic lens, we will see the full range of impacts, both positive and negative, of the food value chain—from farm to fork to disposal. To fix our broken food system, we must first fix food metrics.
Contributing Author: Emily Payne
November 14 is World Diabetes Day, a reminder of how deeply connected our global food system is with human health.
“We must link the health of people with the health of the planet, and we can only ensure long-term food security if our food systems don’t destroy the basis of food production,” says Alexander Müller, study leader for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood).
Food has become the main driver of human health costs. While almost one-third of all people are undernourished and 815 million people still go to bed hungry, close to 30 percent of all people are overweight or obese and close to 10 percent of all people are actually obese.
The World Health Organization estimates the direct costs of diabetes at more than US$827 billion per year, globally. Sugary foods are aggressively marketed throughout the world, especially to children. And multiple studies find that these marketing efforts are especially likely to reach children of color and low-income kids. Food policies impact global sugar consumption, as well, particularly in the younger generation.
“If we start with global dietary patterns, we know they are shifting towards the U.S. model of high meat and high calorie consumption, coupled with low fruit and vegetable consumption. With this shift, we are seeing increasing obesity and chronic diseases on the human side, and increased land and water degradation on the natural systems side,” says Dr. Michael Hamm, Founding Director of the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems.
Food should nourish and nurture people, society, and the planet, but today’s food doesn’t. In order to fix our broken food system, we must first fix food metrics.
Wednesday, Food Tank’s Inaugural San Diego Summit will hold a panel entitled, “Accounting for the True Cost of Food: Practices and Policies to Improve Sustainability.” It will look at the cost of food from a systems perspective, inspired by TEEBAgriFood’s new framework that uses this holistic lens. Panelists will aim to shine a

FT - Food systrems and human health

FT – Food systrems and human health

light on the full range of impacts, both positive and negative, of the food value chain—from farm to fork to disposal.
How can this framework support your work towards a more sustainable food system for all? Please share your thoughts, concerns, or questions in the comments.
(Danielle Nierenberg is President of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture.)

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