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.

15 comments on “Purposeful Spending

  1. Laurie@hinterlands.me says:

    It is encouraging that the Pope is speaking up. I know talk is cheap, but I also believe it’s how change begins. As a non-practising Catholic, I can’t help but be proud of Pope Francis.


  2. avwalters says:

    Many of us reading your blog already eschew HFCS. The question is how to spread the word?
    Enjoy your enforced holiday.


    • Bill says:

      Informing and educating the public is an essential part of the movement and I’m encouraged by the changes that we’re seeing. Social media, blogs, books, word of mouth, living the changes we’d like to see, practicing what we preach–it all helps I think.


  3. Pope Francis is one of the great popes, no doubt about it. Now we will see if the flock listens. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  4. smcasson says:

    Thanks for the link. I have lots of respect for Pope Francis.


  5. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, you so made me belly laugh today with yet another day of computer procrastination. I can so identify with your plight. I wish you well my friend with what lies ahead for this weekend. When it’s over you will be so glad that it’s finally done.

    When I talk with people about the cost of good food they still are convinced that good food costs more than processed food. Yes, they have valid reasons about taking more time to cook and clean up and less storage time before it goes bad. Shopping more often is required. I big issue with many folks is that they don’t eat leftovers and don’t like eating the same thing a couple times in one week. Seriously? How spoiled have we become?

    Have a great computer upgrade day.


    • nebraskadave says:

      Bill, yes, way to go. It looks like you finally took the plunge and waded into computer upgrade. I hope and pray all things go as smooth as came be for an upgrade.


    • Bill says:

      I finally got it done. Lost my bookmarks and cookies it seems, along with a lot of my music collection. But all in all it went reasonably well. Thankfully I had a lot of help.

      The claim that good food is more expensive than junk food is widely accepted as true, with the damaging consequence that people justify bad diets by rationalizing that it’s all they can afford. Overcoming that false claim is one of the biggest and most important challenges we face, in my opinion.


  6. EllaDee says:

    I’m sure Big Pharma and Corporate Medical would be horrified at the thought of the saving of $84.9 billion in healthcare costs…


    • Bill says:

      There’s no money to made in prevention. The big money is in treatment. Saturday two women came to our booth and the farmers market and bought lots of greens, broccoli, etc. They explained that they had a friend undergoing chemo therapy and the food was for her to get her platelet count up. We talked for a while about the medicinal benefit of good food. As they were walking away with the food I overheard one of the women say to her friend, “Now that we’ve got that taken care of we can buy what we want.” I could only shake my head. Since they didn’t have cancer yet, they didn’t want to eat good food. I suppose they’re planning to just wait until they’re undergoing chemo therapy.


      • EllaDee says:

        The G.O.’s stepfather has rather advanced recent cancer and his GP actually suggested adding to his diet garlic, fresh veges… details reported were sketchy because MIL didn’t rate it… his prognosis is poor but at least he’d have been eating well. But yes, too little too late.


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