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Experts believe regional foodsheds would reverse obesity epidemic

Saturday, January 09, 2010 by: Ethan Huff
Tags: local food, obesity, health news

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(NewsTarget) Early Americana is remembered in part for its legacy of homesteading and family farming where families grew their own fruits and vegetables, raised their own animals for food, and traded their goods locally with neighbors. Today's American landscape has changed dramatically; a mere one to two percent of all consumed food is locally grown and over 90 percent of it has been processed. Experts believe that the modern food system has led to the obesity epidemic, noting that a shift back to locally-grown food would remedy the problem.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) collected data from a myriad of sources to help them analyze the obesity problem and its causes. They concluded that the large-scale food system of today has resulted in a glut of readily-available, highly-processed foods that are rich in refined flours, sugars, and fats, and devoid of necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Fresh produce, meats, and other whole foods often travel long distances from farm to market, often coming from other continents. When processing is involved, food travels even further as commodities are shipped in from around the globe, processed, shipped out to distribution centers, and distributed to local retailers. The total distance a single processed item's ingredients have traveled is mind-boggling.

Yet due to highly subsidized base crops like wheat, corn, and soy, a great majority of processed food ingredients can still be obtained inexpensively, despite all their travel, and sold for less than whole, healthier foods. Processed foods also have a much longer shelf life and usually don't require refrigeration, making them cheaper to store and market.

The MIT team is advocating for integrated, regional foodsheds that they believe would make healthier fare more readily available. One idea includes encouraging the conversion of urban and suburban yards and lawns into small-scale farms. Lawn maintenance actually costs more than maintaining a small garden plot, making the idea highly plausible.

Another excellent idea includes creating "food terminals" in which grocery stores are combined with local greenhouses and farmers markets to cooperatively sell local goods.

Researchers admit that not everything can be grown and sold locally all the time, including those items that only grow in certain regions, but they support working towards growing as much as possible locally. They also hope that city planners and other regional architects will work to create infrastructures that facilitate local and regional farms that are easily accessible by residents.

Sources:

Good Food Nation: MIT Researchers Think America's Obesity Epidemic Can Be Reversed Via 'Foodsheds' - The Cornucopia Institute

Local Harvest

Entrepreneurs Keep the Local Food Movement Hot - BusinessWeek

About the author

Ethan Huff is a freelance writer and health enthusiast who loves exploring the vast world of natural foods and health, digging deep to get to the truth. He runs an online health publication of his own at http://wholesomeherald.blogspot.com.

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