Purposeful Spending

Another excerpt from Ellen Gustafson’s excellent and highly-recommended book We the Eaters:

If everyone in America decided to refuse to buy or eat any product that contained HFCS, some very interesting things would begin to happen. For starters, companies would be forced to escalate their efforts to provide alternatives to HFCS-sweetened products, just like Heinz did with its Simply Heinz ketchup, and is Pepsi did with the introduction of Pepsi Throwback – both sweetened with cane or beet sugar. Something else rather interesting what happened as well: we would in effect be conducting a Princeton study of our own. We could be the lab rats not eating HFCS and watching as our weight likely goes down in our health improves. Not by changing our caloric intake or how much we eat, but simply by changing what we eat.

In the past three decades, an increase in industrial food processing, the loss of small- and medium-size farms, and the overproduction of subsidized commodity crops have left us with an overabundance of the wrong foods across the board. Consider what would occur if we dismantled subsidies that favor the overproduction of corn, soy, wheat, and cotton, and replaced them with incentives that encouraged more diverse, healthful agriculture. And then what would result if we applied the same sound agricultural programs in Uganda, and everywhere else in the world that needs assistance. We would begin to revolutionize the entire food system. We would use the power of free market dynamics to our advantage. We need to deploy our consumer dollars, with purposeful, health-conscious, economically sensible, globally connected spending earmarked for good food now, instead of health-care costs later, as a means to realign the food system.

Here is some food for thought: the 33% rise in obesity in America predicted by 2030 will come with $549 billion in added health-care expenses. If the rate of increase in obesity drops by only 1%, we would save an estimated $84.9 billion in healthcare costs. The conclusion is obvious: it costs far more to treat obesity than to prevent it in the first place, even if that means absorbing higher food costs in the short term.

After preparing this post I read Pope Francis’encyclical LAUDATO SI: On the Care of our Common Home. It is a remarkable document that has deeply impressed me. While the media is focused only on the discussion of climate change, this is actually a comprehensive examination of the effects of environmental and societal degradation resulting from overconsumption–addressing pollution, waste and our “throwaway” culture, lack of access to clean drinking water, loss of biodiversity, global inequality, decline in the quality of human life and more. It is a beautiful and compelling call for sustainability. Almost all of it could have been written by Wendell Berry. The Pope does address climate change, of course, and appropriately so, but it is in the context of a much broader discussion.  It is a long and thoughtful document, but I highly recommend taking the time to read it if you can. Link to the full text HERE.

OK, this time I mean it.  I’ll be offline for a few days. Back next week.