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Krupp: Food and health

07/16/09 5:55PM By Ron Krupp
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(HOST) As seasonal produce begins to make its way to our tables once again, commentator Ron Krupp is thinking about the year-round food supply.      

(KRUPP) Aldo Leopold, the pioneer conservationist, once said there is a "food myth" that is a consequence of not living close to the land - and that is that food comes from the grocery shelf.  Farmers know where and how their food is grown, but the vast majority of consumers do not.

Here are a few questions - and answers - that can help educate consumers about food and farming.

How much of your income do you spend on food?  Most people spend about 13 percent.  This is an increase from 10 percent two years ago.  Back in the 1950s, the percentage was closer to 25 percent.

Where does your food come from?  Do you know any of the farmers who grow it?  Vermont imports anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of its food, even though the amount of local food beng purchased increases every year.

What percentage of the U.S. dollar spent on food is the farmer paid at the production end of the food chain?  Most farmers receive less than ten cents on the dollar.

How much do you know about the energy costs of growing, storing and shipping food?  A couple years ago, it cost 25 cents just to send a head of lettuce across the country.  Twenty percent ot the energy used in the U.S. goes to agriculture and food production.

How far does food have to travel to get to your dinner plate?  On average, it's 1,500 miles.

Now, here are some questions about what we might call our food lifestyle:

How much of the time do you eat out, bring in prepared foods from the supermarket, or make meals from scratch in your home?  How often does your family sit down to a meal together?  Who helps with food preparation in your home?  Do your children participate?  Will your children know how to make a meal when they grow up?

How much of your food budget is spent on local food?  Is it available?  Is it affordable?  Is it healthier for you?  How many months of the year can you purchase local food?  Do you grow any of your food?  How much?

Your head might be spinning by now.  As you can see, the topics are not easy to sort out.  But it's critical to know some of the answers to these questions - who the players are and how the system operates.  It's all about learning who controls your food dollar - and how we can make changes that will help us to make more responsible and healthier food choices.

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