Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How gardening can save lives:

I just watched Jamie Oliver's TED wish for this year, and his speech brought me to tears. It seems as though every TED talk is able to move me profoundly, but Jamie Oliver's talk really hit home for me. The issue he addresses, the issue of obesity and a lack of access to healthy, fresh, affordable, food, and the knowledge of how to prepare it, is largely what drives me to be an urban food producer, to be a food blogger, and to be an advocate for home gardens and freshly prepared meals that are made with love.

Oliver advocates that through learning about food, what it is, how to grow it, how to prepare it, we can save lives. Today, approximately two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese and one-tenth of all health costs in the U.S. are related to obesity.

 A young girl looking at a vegetable garden display at
the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, February 2010

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

"The obesity epidemic is harming the health of millions of Americans, contributing significantly to skyrocketing health care costs and threatening the country’s productivity. Two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and nearly one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. The current economic downturn is likely to push these numbers even higher as rising prices and constrained incomes make it more difficult for families to buy healthy foods."


This is not a pretty picture, and the trajectory is not good. Obesity is a food-related disease. As we eat fewer and fewer fresh, home-prepared, whole foods, we get fatter and sicker. Obesity-related diseases, such as type II diabetes are at a record high. When I was a kid, type II diabetes used to be referred to as adult diabetes, because it was rare for children to suffer from this obesity-related illness. Today, "adult diabetes" is referenced by its medical name "type II diabetes" because it is no longer rare for children to contract this preventable disease. In 1980, the year I was born, the national average of obese adults was 15%, today more than 33% of American adults are obese.

When we grow our own food we get exercise from cultivating the land, we breath fresh air (outdoor air quality is always better than indoor air quality), and we inevitably eat fresh, healthy, sustainably-produced, delicious food.

I believe that in a time when obesity rates are at their highest, and still climbing, when processed food is both the easiest and cheapest option, producing ones own food is a revolutionary act. I propose that together we grant Jamie Oliver his wish by teaching each other how to grow and prepare healthy food.

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