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How to Fix the Global Food System and Why it’s Broken

When it comes to healthy food choices, we’re at the mercy of the global food system…unfortunately, it’s not in good condition.

February 19, 2015

Have you ever stopped to think about how your personal food choices are affected by the global food system?

I’ve been writing a lot about this sort of topic lately thanks to a free online course I’m taking through the University of Reading called “Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security“. Click the link to register for the course.

Up until now, I’ve primarily written about the reverse order: how our food choices impact the food system for better or worse. For more about this, have a look at my posts “World Hunger: There’s more to the problem than we’re led to believe“, “3 ways to help reduce world hunger” and “Why You Should Keep a Food Waste Diary“. Now, let’s flip this line of reasoning and look at how the global food system influences our health and dietary choices.

Who’s to blame?

The loudest media sources (predominantly women’s and fitness magazines) churn out dietary advice based on attaining a certain standard of body image or a certain level of health. They imply that if we’re not happy with the way we look or feel, the fault is entirely our own. According to them, we should decide to eat less and/or choose different foods and/or buy into the latest food trends (e.g., detoxes, cleanses, super foods, diet plans..). No matter what they’re promoting, the message is that each individual possesses sole responsibility for choosing foods that heal and benefit him or her rather than ones that harm. This is true to an extent. But what these media sources don’t explain is that the power to choose nourishing foods over harmful foods isn’t entirely within the control of the consumer. To understand what I mean, take a look at this short video from the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:


A Broken Food System

Obviously, there are many problems with the global food system as it currently exists. To varying degrees, we are each affected. We face limited choices among healthy eating options since there is way more junk food in production. And, we’re challenged by accessibility to healthy food, be it for financial reasons (high-quality foods cost much more than commercially processed food) or geographical reasons (many areas have no sources of fresh produce). Those most affected and most unfortunate among us suffer from hunger and disease because of these realities.

How to Fix What’s Broken

As the video prompts, we should hold our leaders accountable for enacting policies which promote a thriving global food system that is sustainable and efficient. It’s not fair for anyone that the cheapest foods are the ones linked to obesity and disease. We should be working toward a world where nutritious, whole foods are available to and affordable for everyone. It starts with informing ourselves of the current injustices within the food system and striving to eradicate them. For me, these efforts are way more newsworthy than the latest dietary and nutritional fads.

To learn more about building an ethical global food system and how to hold our leaders accountable, visit the sites for Fair Food Network and Food Policy Action.

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