How to Put an End to our Nation’s Health Crisis

The other day someone mentioned to me that America’s health crisis could be largely resolved if people would avoid everything in the middle of the grocery store and only buy items currently on the outer walls.

I had to think about the statement for a moment, but once the picture of the last grocery store I visited filled the screen in my mind it occurred to me that he was on to something. Perishables – vegetables, fruit, juices, milk, eggs, fresh meats, fresh breads and so on – line the perimeter of just about every big-box grocery store. The middle of the store, conversely, showcases heavily processed, sugared, salted, chemically-enhanced conveniently packaged whole and fresh food substitutes.

My brother-in-law and I were chatting the other day about how few people have a chance to see their food in its original, live state before it is butchered, harvested or processed. Chickens to most children nowadays are slabs of clean, skin-free meat enclosed in styrofoam and shrink-wrap. Cows, pigs, lamb and fish suffer the same misunderstanding. There is hardly any connection between the original plant or animal and its eventual consumer anymore.

In my mind this creates a situation where healthy food choices are more difficult to make. Everything in the grocery store is put on equal footing, the primary difference typically has little to do with the item’s provenance and everything to do with its price to the average consumer. Fair enough, but I have to wonder if we are missing something by accepting the “big-box” distribution system which is backed by industrial agriculture as the only possible solution.

I came across a courageous talk given by an 11 year old, Birke Baehr, at the recently held TEDxNextGenerationAsheville. Sometimes children put it best, despite their lack of life experience.

Wasn’t that wonderful? Don’t you love the fact that he wants to be an organic farmer when he grows up? I wish Birke well. What an inspiring story.

Is our present system sustainable? It’s hard to see how it could be. If we are to escape from the downward spiral we are presently on relative to the health of our nation, we need to take Birke’s advice and learn about ways to get back in touch with real, wholesome and nourishing food. Believe me, there’s more to it than getting sufficient macronutrients.

I’d love to hear what resources you use to help you make healthy food choices as well as any success stories you’ve come across…

17 thoughts on “How to Put an End to our Nation’s Health Crisis

  1. Pingback: Tell us whats wrong with our food system Birke Baehr « Vanache Was Here

  2. Charlene

    Great post! I learned about the dangers of the ‘center of the store’ from my child when she became a vegeterian in the 4th grade. She had seen a video about animals being slaughtered for food and that was it for her. We now shop at Trader Joe’s, local fresh veggie stands and markets where just about any isle is a healthy safe zone.


  3. strawberryfields

    Adorable TED clip; “Out of the mouths of babes”…
    Since we can’t guarantee the cleanliness of our food even the organic ones I wash every fruit or vegetable before eating it in VEGGIE WASH. It’s an all natural cleaner available at most grocery stores or on line. I also triple rinse and then pat (or spin dry) them to store in the refrigerator. Things like tomatoes I wash as I use them (since they are better not to be refrigerated). It really is fast and easy once you incorporate it into your routine.
    I also buy some veggies cut up to use on days I am short of time like grated carrots, baby carrots or lettuce that is ready to use, (watch the dates on these very carefully) I have started washing them as I read they can have even more bacteria then a whole one. I think my next change will be to stop buying them chopped as well.
    Love your blog. I never know what you’ll be discussing but it’s always something that makes me feel like things can change for the better, thanks!


  4. Brenda Ruppright

    What an amazing video and from a young child!

    Having the opportunity to grow up on a farm where we had animals and did grain farming I know what Birke is talking about. Being able to relate to how the foods we eat are really provided makes a big difference in how we relate to what we eat.

    I would rather pay the farmer than the hospital any day!


    1. I could see it being tremendously beneficial to encourage young people to spend time on a farm, whenever and wherever possible. It would certainly be a perspective changer, especially for inner city kids!


  5. Reina

    Nice tip and easy to remember. Now, if we can help people to understand that it is worth the investment of time and money to prepare whole foods for their family, that is where the real difference is made! You can’t put a dollar amount on health, it’s priceless, though the cost of being unhealthy is absolutley measureable. Thanks so much!


    1. I think there is the idea that to go to a cleaner diet you have to sacrifice. Not so in my experience. When the foundation is wholesome, there is plenty of room for the occasional indulgence and the strange thing is that the indulgences become more appealing as a treat and less attractive as a staple when you’re on the right track.


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  7. Colin

    I have heard that tip about eating from the perimeter of the grocery store before, and u think it’s a good one. If you’re busy, one thing you can do is prepare a weeks worth of food on one day of the weekend and freeze the leftovers, so you can have a healthy meal in short order. Whatever you do, most likely you could benefit from eating better. I know I could!


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