Monday, May 24, 2010

Grow your own - don't wait for the US food supply!

Here are a few of last week's headlines from news outlets in the US and UK and blogs around the world:



"Not enough fruits and veggies"
"Fighting US Cancer: Diet, scant exercise problems"
"Insufficient Fruit and Vegetables to Make American Diet Healthy"
"US doesn't grow, import enough fruit, veggies" 


Pure and simple, in spite of the abundance of produce you see at grocery stores and farmers' markets, the US does not grow enough fruit or vegetables to provide the recommended "5-a-day" amount to  every person living in the US. In fact, the US grows only about half of the fruit and vegetables needed for this recommendation to optimize overall health. In addition, the scientist who is quoted in this study (Susan Krebs-Smith, PhD of the National Cancer Institute) also noted that people tend to overestimate the amount of exercise they really do, which of course also is a contributor to overall good health. 


How to take those two observations and turn them into a better reality right now (rather than waiting for the USDA to get its agricultural policies in line with the US Dietary Guidelines) - why, plant a garden, of course! I'll bet you knew I was going to say that. :-) 


Here is another little known fact. 


The USDA reports that ~13 million additional acres are needed to grow the produce required in order for the nation to consume the amount of domestically produced fruits and vegetables as recommended by the US Dietary Guidelines.
Does that seem like an enormous amount of land? Where to obtain those acres?

In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that there are more than 31 million acres of grass, an area equal to the size of the New England states., and over 80% of this grass is found in residential lawns.
(The Lawn Institute, Rolling Meadows, IL)           


This is not difficult math! :-) We have plenty of space in this country to make up this difference and more. Get down, get dirty, get gardening, get healthy!


With cancer centers not only wanting to treat a person's cancer but get them on the way to overall good health, it makes perfect sense to me that combining healthy food and exercise by gardening is a no-brainer so to speak. :-) 


One of the biggest trends is increasing interest in vegetable gardening with 35% of US households participating in food gardening in 2009. (National Gardening Association) I encourage all cancer centers to begin leading by example by planting their own version of a Cancer Victory Garden™ in whatever space they have (using current landscaping space, container gardening, roof-top gardens, digging up some of their lawns, even digging up pavement - Cleveland Clinic did this!, etc, etc).


I repeat -
Get down, get dirty, get gardening, get healthy! It's time to take all avenues to health into our own hands, literally! :-)

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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