Many different organizations and health experts have purposed various solutions to solve the western world's obesity epidemic. A large majority of the population has hypothesized that the problem is related to governmental food guides, video games, a fast paced society and a lack of focus on nutritional education. These are all contributing factors to the obesity epidemic and I don't argue that it is a multifactorial problem, however none of these purposed hypotheses address the root of the problem.
The underlying problem and forgotten solution
The underlying problem to the obesity epidemic is the current population's lack of connectivity to the soil, the environment and the food supply. There was once a time when food was scarce and acquiring a healthy food supply required hard work and sacrifice, nowadays you can purchase a thousand calorie meal (albeit with no nutrients) for a just a few dollars on nearly every street corner. Presently, kids, and many adults for that matter, have little knowledge about where there food comes from and how it was produced. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population understands their food comes from a box in a grocery store or from the delivery guy at the pizza parlour, and that's the extent of their knowledge. A hundred years ago people knew which farmers raised their chickens and which gardener grew their vegetables. They were connected to their environment and connected to their community; unfortunately many of us have lost this connection, which is vital to our health and well being.
Where to start?
The best place to start is with yourself and those around you. Get familiar with your local food supply and where it comes from. When you become interested in where your food comes from and how it became available to you, you begin to develop a curiosity about nutrition and your health. You may question if antibiotics or hormones were injected into your meat, or if your vegetables were sprayed with pesticides. You will no longer mindlessly place boxed hamburgers and canned vegetables into your shopping cart without considering the nutritional and ethical ramifications of purchasing low quality food. This type of questioning and thinking is critical if our goal is to develop a healthier population and more sustainable environment.
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Do health professionals know how to grow food?
During my academic career I completed a nutrition degree, a medical degree and a two-year family medicine residency program. That's over 10 years of health related education, yet I was never taught how to grow my own food. I believe that if you work in healthcare, it should be required to spend some time with an organic farmer. Organic farmers are the unsung heroes of the world and provide us with what is vitally important to our health and well being; high quality organic food that can prevent and treat disease. Organic farmers may not be trained to memorize the exact recommended daily intake of every vitamin and nutrient, but they know how to produce healthy sustainable food, critical knowledge that many health experts are lacking.
How to get your kids to eat vegetables
If you're having difficulty getting your child eating vegetables, I have a solution for you. Teach them to grow their own vegetables. You teach your kids to grow kale and they'll eat kale. You teach them to grow spinach and they'll eat spinach. It's that simple. They'll also start to develop an appreciation for food, soil, the environment and earth itself. In addition, it teaches kids valuable life lessons about community, teamwork, patience and respect for one another and their local community.
What should schools do?
Let's call a spade a spade. There's a lot of useless materiel in the curriculum of public education. I think we can all agree that it would be reasonable to eliminate some of the materiel in favour of teaching valuable lessons such as growing and preparing food. The fact that you can graduate high school without knowing how to grow and prepare a nutritious meal is not only pathetic, it's detrimental to our kids' health and well-being. The good news is that it can easily be taught. If you can perform grade 12 math calculations, you can learn how and what nutrients are necessary to allow our body to function properly.
The disconnection western society has from its environment -- the soil and the food supply -- is the underlying issue in the obesity epidemic. If we can reconnect our current population with the food supply and the community, we will create a healthier and brighter future for generations to come.