Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The $11 Trillion Reward: Investing in Healthy Food Will Save Us

Health + Wellness
The $11 Trillion Reward: Investing in Healthy Food Will Save Us

Union of Concerned Scientists

It turns out that an apple a day really can keep the doctor away—especially if she's a cardiologist.

According to a 2013 Union of Concerned Scientists' report, The $11 Trillion Dollar Reward, increasing our consumption of fruits and vegetables could save more than 100,000 lives and $17 billion in health care costs from heart disease each year.

And better farm policies, designed to encourage production of healthy food instead of processed junk foods, will help us reap those benefits.

Healthier Food, Healthier Hearts: The Surprising Numbers

Here are some of the more eye-opening findings from the report:

  • Medical costs of treating heart disease and stroke were estimated at $94 billion in 2010, and this figure is projected to nearly triple by 2030.
  • If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year.
  • If Americans were to follow current USDA recommendations for daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, those numbers would go up to more than 127,000 lives and $17 billion saved.
  • According to methods commonly used by economists, the increased longevity that would result if Americans ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is worth over $11 trillion.

Local Food to the Rescue

One good way to get more fruits and vegetables into our diets is to increase our access to locally grown food.

Local food systems are good for the economy. And it turns out that they are good for our hearts as well. Here's why:

  • Fruits and vegetables constitute 65 percent of locally sold food.
  • Evidence is emerging that access to local-food markets increases fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Relatively modest investments should go a long way toward promoting the future growth of local-food markets.

What We Can Do: Invest in Healthy Food

We know that eating more fruits and vegetables will save lives and money. What do we do next?

First, we should make federal policy work for, not against, farmers who want to grow healthy food:

  • Change our research priorities. More research funding for healthy foods could translate to more abundant, varied and affordable fruits and vegetables for consumers.
  • Remove planting restrictions. Many commodity crop farmers are barred under current subsidy programs from planting fruits and vegetables. Lifting those restrictions would help create more competitive market conditions for healthy foods.
  • Make crop insurance available. Crop insurance is currently unavailable for many fruit and vegetable farmers, making it harder to grow healthy foods profitably. Removing this obstacle should be a priority.

Second, we should make healthy, locally grown food more available and affordable to consumers:

  • Promote the growth of farmers markets, food hubs and other local food outlets—especially in underserved areas where access to healthy food is most limited—through grants and low-interest loans.
  • Facilitate the use of nutrition benefits such as Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at local food markets.
  • Educate consumers about healthy foods and how to prepare them.

Learn more about healthy food and federal farm policy, read the report and check out our Plant the Plate infographic below:

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD pages for more related news on this topic.

———

A monarch butterfly is perched next to an adult caterpillar on a milkweed plant, the only plant the monarch will lay eggs on and the caterpillar will eat. Cathy Keifer / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

Fall used to be the time when millions of monarch butterflies in North America would journey upwards of 2,000 miles to warmer winter habitat.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protester demonstrates against the Dakota Access Pipeline on March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A federal appeals court has struck another blow against the contested Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less

Trending

24 Hours of Reality: "Earthrise" by Amanda Gorman / YouTube

By Bud Ward

Poet Amanda Gorman got well-deserved rave reviews for her dramatic reading of her six-minute "The Hill We Climb" poem January 20 before a global TV and online inauguration day audience.

Read More Show Less
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches on its maiden test flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 6, 2018. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Three men are paying $55 million each to travel to space, the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
#SaveSalla is a campaign launched by a Finnish community in partnership with the youth climate movement Fridays for Future. www.savesalla.org

By Jessica Corbett

With temperatures across the globe — and particularly in the Arctic — rising due to lackluster efforts to address the human-caused climate crisis, one of the coldest towns on Earth is throwing its hat in the ring to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

Read More Show Less