In my daily mail inbox I was met by this NPR story about how the USDA has figured out that while it recommends we get 2-3 cups of veggies per person we only grow about 1.7. That was their main lament. Buried in the article is a far greater one.
First, I’m going to address the obvious answer to their question. Their question was is if this problem was a problem of the supply not being correct if or if the supply was being driven by demand. It’s obviously the latter. We are not a nation of starving individuals that scrounge for food. We are a nation that throws out 40% of the food we row, and the largest percentage of that is in the distribution or consumer waste side (see this NRDC study). It could be argued that there is a price differential, but inexpensive produce can be had in most areas, even if just as frozen items. It still would be helpful if the government subsidies went to more than just corn and soy, but that’s what is used further down the processed food chain so I doubt you’ll get a budge in that against the big agri-business lobbies.
That part isn’t the sad part to me though. The sad part is that the overwhelming majority of the vegetables that we consume fall into three categories: tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce. One third of the “potato” vegetables are French fries, and two thirds of the “tomato” vegetables are sauces and ketchup. Have we gotten so desperate to claw out vegetable servings that we actually even the USDA classifies French fries, ketchup, and pizza as vegetable consumption? Maybe that’s just a sign that the government has given up on any semblance of having reasonable nutrition in this country.
I don’t want to burst everyone’s bubble but you are deluding yourself if you think the fries, lettuce, and tomato on your burger (oh I forgot the ketchup you dunked the fries in too) qualifies as vegetable consumption along the lines of what is talked about for having a healthy diet.