Our Cause

Summary

The current conventional food system of the United States has a disproportionate impact on global climate change and offers increasingly inadequate nutritional content. However, individuals can help mitigate climate change and improve their nutrition by transitioning to a sustainable diet, one that promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations.

KIN's Approach

While there is considerable research on food and planetary health, there currently lies a deficit in nutrition and food sustainability education in the US. It is this gap that KIN seeks to address. We believe that the most effective approach for large-scale behavioral change is to target the next generation considering that adolescent children are at the most neuroplastic stage of their lives and may be more impressionable during their early school years [11]. The first step to changing a deeply rooted social norm, such as deconstructing the American conventional food system, is to provide education at a young age in an easy to digest and interactive way.

Diet Change

In order to create a future where our health and the environment are not permanently damaged, a fundamental shift in the ways that we produce and consume food is urgently needed. A shift to a more plant-based diet has a transformative potential, lowering premature death risk by 7-19%; reducing food’s land use by 76%; food’s GHG emissions by 49%; eutrophication by 49%; and freshwater withdrawals by 19% [10].

Health

Unhealthy diets and low physical activity are leading risk factors for a variety of non-communicable diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, poor bone health, and some cancer in the U.S. [1] About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese.  In 2008, the medical costs associated with obesity were estimated to be $147 billion. In 2012, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in decreased productivity. [2]

Environment

Unhealthy diets also tend to be highly resource-intensive, due to large amounts of animal-sourced proteins, driving massive environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Total meat production has more than quadrupled since 1961 with Americans being the largest consumers in the world. [3] 

  • Food accounts for over a quarter (26%) of global greenhouse gas emissions [4]

  • Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture [5]

  • 70% of global freshwater withdrawals are used for agriculture [6]

  • 78% of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication (the pollution of waterways with nutrient-rich pollutants) is caused by agriculture [7]

  • 94% of mammal biomass is livestock. Of the 28,000 species evaluated to be threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List, agriculture and aquaculture is listed as a threat for 24,000 of them. [8]

Pandemics

Research also suggests that COVID-19 could originate from bats, highlighting a high zoonotic potential. Around 60% of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), and almost all recent pandemics originate in animals. [9] EIDs are driven by deforestation, land-use change, intensification of livestock production, and increased hunting and trading of wildlife, all components of food production’s expansion. Future outbreaks could arise if we continue to largely encroach on these ecosystems.

References

  1. Emro.who.int. 2020. WHO EMRO | Unhealthy Diet | Causes | Ncds. [online] Available at: <http://www.emro.who.int/noncommunicable-diseases/causes/unhealthy-diets.html> [Accessed 7 September 2020].

  2. Health.gov. 2020. Nutrition And Health Are Closely Related - 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines | Health.Gov. [online] Available at: <https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/introduction/nutrition-and-health-are-closely-related/> [Accessed 7 September 2020]

  3. Ritchie, H. and Roser, M., 2020. Meat And Dairy Production. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: <https://ourworldindata.org/meat-production> [Accessed 7 September 2020].

  4. Poore, Joseph, and Thomas Nemecek. "Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers." Science 360.6392 (2018): 987-992.

  5. Ritchie, H. and Roser, M., 2020. Environmental Impacts Of Food Production. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: <https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food> [Accessed 7 September 2020].

  6. Earthscan. The state of the world's land and water resources for food and agriculture: Managing systems at risk. Routledge, 2011.

  7. Poore, Joseph, and Thomas Nemecek. "Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers." Science 360.6392 (2018): 987-992.

  8. Ritchie, H. and Roser, M., 2020. Environmental Impacts Of Food Production. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: <https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food> [Accessed 7 September 2020].

  9. Jones KE, Patel N, Levy M, et al. Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Nature 2008; 451:990-94.

  10. Aleksandrowicz, Lukasz, et al. "The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: a systematic review." PloS one 11.11 (2016): e0165797.

  11. Spear, Linda Patia. "Adolescent neurodevelopment." Journal of adolescent health 52.2 (2013): S7-S13.

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