Happy World Health Day. . .
Or is it?
The World Health Organization released a report yesterday on the devastating rise of diabetes world wide – mirrored right here in our own beloved capital city.
Then this morning’s Washington Post highlighted a new study finding that junk food habits – those very habits that contribute to the rise in diabetes – start in the toddler years.
The facts are not new: those with Type II diabetes have quadrupled in number globally since 1980. Even when you control for a rising population, the number is doubling. The trend that has walloped the United States and Europe is now moving into the developing world almost in direct proportion to the flows and consumption rates of processed foods. And it is a trend that has an outsize effect on the low income communities served by the Capital Area Food Bank: 23% of the people we are reaching have diabetes, or live with someone who does.
In the face of these facts, we must ask: How long will we live with this burden of knowledge without acting?
At the CAFB, our answer is: no longer.
We have been working all along to improve our food supply, with bold moves to take out sheet cake and full calorie soda. But there is more work to do, and we are doing it. Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, under the leadership of Bob Gleeson, helped us to reduce processed baked goods from our inventory. Giant Foods, under the leadership of Gordon Reid, is beginning to sort leftover holiday candy out of its retail donations, and to model a wellness program. And we continue to emphasize and build access to foods high in nutrition: fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
As the burden of knowledge continues to mount, we will also call on other retailers and food suppliers to help us. The steps are clear:
- Raise awareness about the links of processed foods that are heavy in refined carbohydrates and sugar to diabetes
- Clean up our own food supply
- Encourage retailers and food suppliers to drive improvement of the food supply across the region
- Embrace government subsidies and policies that make the situation better – not worse. (i.e. stopping the subsidization of sugar and corn syrup)
With many social problems, we don’t know quite what to do. Carbon sequestration eludes us. Ocean desalinization is tough. Cancer cures demand more research and development.
But we know exactly what to do to lower Type II diabetes: reduce the amount of high-sugar, high-carb, highly processed foods that we produce, promote, and ultimately, eat.
We’re on it.
Join the movement.