Thinning the Fat

Clearly, the battle of 2012 will be fought on three distinct fronts: jobs, jobs and of course jobs.With such slick and diametrically opposed proposals being flung far and wide on how to render the economic crises, it is no wonder that none seem to stick. From an outsiders perspective, it is almost as if the leadership in Washington wants us to fail in finding a resolution for our financial woes. I am sure though that it is not the case. But what is real, is the fact that neither of the two (and one- quarter) parties are discussing anything that will actually SOLVE our predicament, at best they are only delaying the inevitable.
We worry about the increasing costs of health care, the boomers who are surely going to break that piggy, and the climate of unfavorable conditions for wealth management.  Well, why not turn this perfect storm into a perfect opportunity to not just walk the line of centrist governance but actually make everyone happy. The health of wealth cannot be solved without solving the health of individuals, which in turn cannot be solved without solving the health of food systems.
There is an infinite list of reasons why addressing our food system is essential for stabilizing our economy but for the moment let us just take one- obesity.If we did nothing else other than unravel this mystery, initiate a Manhattan Project, and implement the results, we could simultaneously elucidate a clear path with reduced debt and less weight- quite literally. But it is really not that complicated.
Each year the cost of obesity in the US is $147 Billion.  Its silent partners– diabetes and hypertension– cost  $174 Billion and $77 Billion respectively. And If we really open up the playing field to the sticker shock of them all- cardiovascular diseases run about $444 Billion. Mind you, that totals about 20% (not including cancer)… of the proposed 2012 Obama budget alone, a percentage that will have increased significantly by the time the revised data is available. It is also a figure comparable to what we spend on Defense.  With such staggering numbers, larger than many nations’ GDP combined, how can we not consider direct, mitigatable solutions? The fact is that all of these diseases can be directly alleviated, and yes, completely avoided, by considering what we eat and what we don’t.
Food deserts (areas lacking access to fresh produce) and food swamps (areas with a glut of fast food) exist in parallel with the highest occurrences of chronic disease. These areas also largely occur along ethnic and class lines. As the leaders of public health often say: “give me your zip code and I’ll give you your life expectancy.” Adding to the hurdles, grocery chains claim that there is no demand for produce, and as such, choose not to operate in these areas. To this I say “great!” Less competition for the urban farmers who will move into these areas with oodles of opportunity- create jobs, provide access to healthy food, and quite frankly outsmart the brightest of the bunch in DC.  Mystery solved.
In a separate piece we will grapple with the Farm Bill that is largely underwriting, and subsidizing failed food structures, which led to this disparity. But for the moment I will leave you with recent news:  the United Nations General Assembly declared that non- communicable diseases will cost the global economy $47 trillion (that’s with a “T”) over the next 20 years. At a time of great instability, and the domino affect of economic collapse looming overhead, isn’t it remarkable that we can choose to either continue down this souring fiscal path or enable the sweet nectar of localized food systems to fortify our economy? Who knew that politics could be just so tantalizingly delicious?

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