How Food In The US Is Killing Americans

A typical American consumes a US diet that is, in many instances, deadly. One task force is providing recommendations on how to help.

By Trista Sobeck | Published

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Now entering the room, The Food Czar! What? Sounds kind of weird, right? But it just makes sense when you find out what it is, what they will do, and how they will help. The typical US diet that an American consumes is oftentimes—killer.

Chances are that daily, any typical American consumes food that is over-processed, fried, full of salt and other chemicals, and missing the healthy vitamins human bodies need to run successfully and in a healthy manner. What that typical US diet is, however, is cheap and fast. These two factors sometimes outweigh and factor into what a family will have for lunch or dinner on any given day.

Deaths from poor diet outrank deaths from smoking, and half of the deaths caused by heart disease in the US are linked to poor diet, says a report from NPR.  In a world where it feels like we cannot control anything, we should be able to maintain our US diet. Shouldn’t we? Life gets in the way. With frantic schedules, overworked parents, joblessness, and the growing expense of healthy food, it’s no surprise that choosing cheap, fast, and fried is a daily choice—even if it isn’t the best choice.

As a country, it’s time to do something about it, believes Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “We’re really in a nutrition crisis in this country,” he says. And the time has come for change. Mazaffarian has recently been named as co-chair of an independent task force that is helping to form an agenda at an upcoming White House conference that will tackle the US diet and American nutritional crisis.

A New Task Force

This independent task force, comprised of doctors, chefs, food policy experts, and farming advocates, is tackling the goals of the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The team is non-partisan and is made up of direct stakeholders in the overall US diet. 

Mazaffarian says the task force is “thinking about food more broadly, and how we can fix this crisis.” The task force’s new report outlined serval wide-ranging suggestions on how to end hunger, advance nutrition, and improve health. The White House recently announced that the first Conference on Food Issues in 50 years will take place on September 28. 

The first conference on food issues took place in 1969  and established many current policies such as the National School Lunch Program and the Food Stamp Program. The policies significantly reduced caloric hunger and vitamin deficiencies in the US diet. 

Main Recommendations

Here are three big ideas and recommendations that the task force is incredibly excited about:  

1. A Food Czar: 

This new role in the federal government will act as a national director of food and nutrition. He or she will coordinate all the separate efforts to help the existing US diet crisis. The task force says that spending between nutritional programs and health care for diet-related diseases spans billions of dollars. The Food Czar (let’s hope they keep that name) will work with all the departments and individual actions to begin a new approach to the nation’s nutritional-related spending. 

2. Better Access to Dietary and Lifestyle Counseling:

 Although the Affordable Care Act does mandate that insurers cover diet counseling for those at a high risk of chronic disease, the belief is that many patients do not get to benefit or have access to this service. Because “doctors go right to the drug,” says Mozaffarian, most on a US diet do not have a chance to choose another way. The task force has recommended Medicare and Medicaid coverage for medical nutrition therapy for patients with diet-related conditions. Cooking classes and a Diabetes Prevention Program will be delivered by telehealth. 

3. Food as Medicine:

 The task force believes that “produce prescription programs” will help with US diet in quality and food security. In addition, the task force wants to offer medically tailored meals aimed at helping those who are already sick to treat chronic diseases. A pilot program currently exists where Medicare or Medicaid pays for medically-sound meals.  

There is much evidence that food-based interventions can help the US diet. Look forward to more info coming out of the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.