Mark Bittman: Soda Kills, the Future of Food, and How to Fix the Food System
Nearly 2000 people turned out Wednesday night to join New York Times food writer and op-ed columnist Mark Bittman for an engaging discussion on the intersection of food, politics, the environment and personal health. Bittman is really a master at telling the complex story of this intersection in terms most folks can understand. Tying three big uber trends/sectors together –agriculture, energy, and climate change– have food as a giant common denominator. Changes to one impact the others.
“Food and everything surrounding it is a crucial matter of personal and public health, of national and global security. At stake is not only the health of humans but that of the earth.”
Starting off, Bittman noted that if we had an enemy who subversively increased our energy dependence on corrupt governments, polluted our soils and watersheds and contributed to what is now expected to be a pandemic of obesity and related health issues, we’d be up in arms. But the fact that this has happened over the past few decades has led to a decidedly different situation, and education and awareness are the key first steps in order to take action – both personal and by government.
I’d love to post a video of the entire talk, but that’s not possible. Mark Bittman is on a nationwide lecture tour right now, and I highly encourage you to check him out if he is coming to your city.
Some juicy nuggets:
- Current policies that subsidize and push foods, like wheat, meat, and dairy may be in no one’s best interests
- There is food and non-food. Carrots are food. Soda is non-food.
- Soda kills
- Average 12 oz bottle of soda contains 9 (NINE!) teaspoons of sugar
- Soda is the tobacco of the 21st century
- The market pricing is upside down in many cases
- $1 for hamburger
- $4 for a salad
- Need to stop junk food marketing to kids
- On TV, “limited” to 10 minutes/hr
- On web – no limits!
- Kids getting hooked on games and apps from industrial food companies before they can read
- Let’s be sane: ban junk-food vending machines in schools
- Sure, they generate revenue
- Would we put a cigarette machine there too if it made money?
- “VB6” – vegan before 6:00p
- This is related to Bittman’s own health journey and how having essentially a vegan diet for breakfast and lunch each day led him to drop 35 lbs, clear up sleep apnea, and remove knee pain!
- Move along the spectrum: less meat, more plants, limit junk food consumption greatly
- In 50-100 years, we’ll have a mostly plant-based organic diet. Whether we do this sanely or cataclysmically is to be determined
- Need alternative to Big Ag and industrial food
- Buy from and support 10-500 acre farms
- As locally as possible
- Need a new generation of sustainable farmers (yes!)
- The Stanford study on organic produce compared to conventional seems like a travesty of good research and analytical methods, with suspect conclusions
Please check out Mark’s blog and post, “A Food Manifesto for the Future.” He puts forth several ideas “that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring,” such as “end government subsidies to processed food; begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption; and encourage and subsidize home cooking.”
If you can get a ticket to an upcoming Mark Bittman lecture, do it. And I strongly recommend subscribing to his recipe podcast.
Did you attend Mark Bittman’s lecture? What did you think, what was the one thing that stuck in your mind? Let us know in the comments below.
About Mark Bittman:
Mark Bittman has been a journalist for over 40 years and a professional food writer since 1980. In 1987 he became the senior writer, later editor, of Cooks Illustrated, and in 1990 started writing for the New York Times where, until recently, he had a weekly column, “The Minimalist.” He now blogs for the NYT’s online column “Opinionator.” Bittman is the author of several books, including How to Cook Everything (1998), The Food Matters Cookbook (2010), and How to Cook Everything, The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food (2012). He has hosted PBS series such as Spain: On the Road Again, with Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow, Bittman Takes On America’s Chefs, and The Best Recipes in the World.