The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), two government agencies responsible for updating and publishing the important Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years had a great opportunity to get it right. No, seriously, they had a tremendous opportunity to take a giant leap forward by including sustainability as a factor driving their recommendations.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), the independent scientific body tasked with advising the USDA and HHS on the latest science, even recommended the adoption of sustainability considerations in the federal government’s new dietary advice. The DGAC was tasked with making recommendations that would support both health and food security, and because neither would be possible without a sustainable food supply, they obviously concluded that a diet rich in plant-based foods was the way to go. It was a no brainer! Why? It promotes good health — and is also more environmentally sustainable.
Finally … science and sound advice seemed to stand a fighting chance! If you are going to make health and dietary recommendations, wouldn’t you want to consider the impact of those foods on the natural resources and long-term food security? Of course, you would, especially if “protecting the health of the American public” is one of our government’s most important responsibilities?
It’s quite simple, really. The meat industry flexed their bacon muscles and voiced their opposition to the idea that sustainability should have any bearing on Americans’ food choices. Barry Carpenter, President and Chief Executive Officer of the North American Meat Institute, complained, “The committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise. It’s akin to having a dermatologist provide recommendations about cardiac care.”
While I do appreciate the attempt at humor, Mr. Carpenter, food security and the health of the American public is no laughing matter.
The short story is that lobbying interests have prevailed once again and any hope of federal dietary recommendations that are grounded in reality will have to be put on pause for at least another five years.
Does it Matter?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a key document that guides U.S. nutrition policies and food procurement programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, as well as nutrition education, including MyPlate. So, yes, this does matter, but it also doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.
Although the USDA and HHS decided to take sustainability off the plate for the 2015 dietary guidelines, the DGAC’s recommendations helped bring national attention to the issue. If you’re reading this right now, you now know that our food choices not only matter for our health but also impact the environment and the health of future generations.
Yes, we can complain about what could have been, and how our government can’t get anything right or we can focus on fixing the problem.
Here’s What You Can Do Today
By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people. Do that today and share this message with everyone you know, because that’s what the American public needs to hear.
As Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
So, why wait for the government to stop pandering to meat industry lobbyists and acknowledge that a diet higher in plant-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact?
Why wait when you have the power to fix our broken food system today?
Learn more about how the fork can be an incredibly effective tool in the fight against climate change, the future of human health and food security by joining One Green Planet’s #EatForthePlanet campaign.
How to Participate:
1. Choose a plant-based/vegan meal
3. Add #EatForThePlanet and @OneGreenPlanet in your update.
Let’s show the world how eating vegan/plant-based has never been easier or more delicious!