The Real Food Revolution: Congressman Tim Ryan’s Manifesto for a New Food System
There is one place that nearly everything that matters today in the world converges.
It is our fork, and what we decide to put on it every single day is of utmost importance.
Food and the way we produce and consume it is the nexus of most of our world’s health, environmental, climate, economic and even political crises.
We need a Real Food Revolution, exactly the kind that Congressman Tim Ryan so eloquently, simply and self-evidently describes in his new book.
Listen to Congressman Ryan speak out about the need for the transformation of our food system. He is the first politician in Washington to speak the truth about food.
Why would a doctor be so interested in food and food policy?
Our most powerful tool to reverse the global epidemic of chronic disease, heal the environment, reform politics and revive economies is the fork. What we put on it has tremendous implications not just for our waistlines but also for the planet and our global economy. What we do to our bodies, we do to the planet, and what we do to the planet, we do to our bodies.
The harm we do to our bodies is linked in a complex web to the harm we do to the planet; to the degradation of our environment, air and water; and to the future we are stealing from our children. The next time you pick up your fork, think of the personal and global impact of what you put on it.
Never before have we faced the scale of our current global crisis of chronic disease. According to the World Economic Forum, chronic disease is now the single biggest threat to global economic development. It will cost the world’s economy $47 trillion ($47,000,000,000,000) over the next twenty years, more than the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the six biggest economies combined.
We are also depleting our human capital. Lifestyle caused disease now kills fifty million people a year, more than twice as many than die from infectious disease. Eighty percent of the world’s type 2 diabetics are in the developing world. Twice as many people go to bed overweight as go to bed hungry in the world today. One in two Americans, and one in four teenagers, has pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. And, we are raising the first generation of Americans to live sicker and die younger than their parents.
Our children’s future is threated by an achievement gap caused in large part by their inability to learn well while surviving on the processed foods and sugar served in their schools. Fifty percent of schools serve brand name fast foods in the cafeteria and 80 percent have contracts with soda companies. Most schools have only deep fryers and microwave ovens that are only capable of serving up industrial food-like substances prepared by corporations, not by humans.
Our national security is threatened because our young adults are too fat to fight. The President of Spellman College in Atlanta, the first black woman’s college in America, told me that over 50 percent of the entering freshman class has a chronic disease such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. Yet she couldn’t get the soda vending machines off the campus because Coca Cola is a major donor to the school.
We are also depleting nature’s capital—capital that once destroyed, cannot be reclaimed. The threat is not only to our health and our children’s future, but to the health of the planet that sustains us. One acre of arable land is lost to development every minute of every day. One pound of meat requires 2,000 gallons of water and produces 58 times more greenhouse gasses than 1 pound of potatoes. Intensive mono-crop irrigation is depleting our Ogallala Aquifer on the Great Plains 1.3 trillion gallons faster than it can be replenished by rainfall. Three quarters of our fresh water (only 5 percent of all the Earth’s water) is used for agriculture, mostly to grow meat for human consumption. Wars of the future will be fought over water, not oil.