You Are What You Eat

In order to feed our nation we have established an elaborate food supply system. We produce billions of bushels of grain, millions of pounds of meat, and incredible amounts of other raw and processed foods, and ship them all over the world. In 2012 alone, the United States exported $135.8 billion worth of agricultural products and imported $103.4 billion.

While the UNFAO recommends a 2,000 calorie per-day diet, the average American consumes well above this, about 2,600 calories. Many of these calories come from the global food supply chain. In fact, the average American meal consists of ingredients from five different countries.

Yet, despite all of the resources it uses, all of the time and effort put in to it, and its sprawling global reach, the American food supply system does not provide adequate nutrition. Instead, it provides 127% of daily-recommended grain, 117% of daily-recommended meat, 67% of daily-recommended vegetables, 57% of daily-recommended dairy, and 43% of daily-recommended fruit to the average American. Our fruit supply would need to more than double and vegetable supply would need to increase by 70 percent to meet Health Eating Index-2005 requirements.

All of these increases would come at the cost of solid fats, alcoholic beverages, and added sugars, which would need to decrease by 61%. Granted, given that in 2009–2010, 35.7% of U.S. adults were obese which is, at least in part, due to overconsumption of sugar, we may not miss that 61%.

All these numbers bring to mind the maxim “you are what you eat”. We, as a population, are unhealthy. We, as a country, eat unhealthily. As we welcome the next 2 billion people on this Earth, let’s try to greet them with not just food, but nutrition.

Check out our infographic and see how your calorie intake measures up against nutritional values. Then add to the discussion below. How can we make our food supply more balanced? Should the government involve itself? How? If not, what measures should be taken instead and by whom?

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