The food industry may pose the single greatest threat to human health today. The amount of people suffering from obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other food-related illnesses has skyrocketed since we created what is known as the “global food system.”
As globalization increased and technology advanced, we went from growing our own food and raising our own cattle to developing a multi-trillion dollar business. Food has gone from representing a method of sustaining ourselves to becoming a global industry fueled by corruption and profitability. Most conventional food products, especially in North America, contain dairy, sugar, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), chemicals, toxins, and other ingredients harmful to human health.
The difficulty of trying to be healthy
If you read the label on any given food product, you may not even be able to recognize some of the ingredients. Even something as basic as sugar can be difficult to identify because of the number of alternative names: sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, and more. You may choose to purchase products that claim to be “sugar free” or “fat free,” but this is usually offset by an increase in artificial sweeteners with the former and sugar with the latter. One of the best ways to maintain a healthy diet is to purchase organic foods, although this is not foolproof either (as explained here).
Why medical doctors and governments are lying to you
Although the implications of eating an entire tub of ice cream may seem obvious, other foods that are detrimental to human health aren’t as evident. For example, medical doctors often claim that the only viable source of protein is meat and the sole source of vitamin B12 is red meat. They fail to mention that by consuming meat, we increase our risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes, and numerous other health issues.
Governments heavily promote the consumption of dairy products, as they play a considerable role in controlling the dairy industry and reap plenty of profit as a result. Even at a young age, society is encouraged to increase their dairy intake for “optimal strength and bone health,” when in reality consuming dairy heightens our risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures, and some cancers. Despite what national food guides claim and “Got Milk?” advertisements dictate, there are a number of healthier, denser sources of calcium, including kale, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, and a wide variety of seeds.
Hospitals’ role in promoting unhealthy diets
Many consumers are aware of the dangers of their unhealthy diets, yet they continue to eat this way due to taste, convenience, and visual appeal. To these individuals, the risk is worth the reward, even if the end result is hospitalization. Ironically, the food served in hospitals isn’t as healthy as you’d expect from a business whose mission is to better the health of its patients. The average meal served to patients in a North American hospital includes:
- Little or no vegetarian options
- Meals centered around meat and dairy
- Bleached, white bread
- High sodium content
- Extremely high sugar levels (essentially every meal is served with Jell-O)
- Heavily processed foods
Approximately 67% of hospital staff claim they wouldn’t consume the food they serve patients, 60% of those patients refuse to eat their meals, and some of the meals prepared don’t even meet standards set by the average school cafeteria (source). The paradox is that people seek doctors’ aid to help them heal and trust hospitals to provide them with a safe place to do so, but instead they’re slowly being poisoned.
“Hospital farms”: the next generation of hospital food
The negative feedback on hospital food is not going unnoticed; some hospitals in the US have built organic farms so they can raise the organic fruits and vegetables used in patients’ meals.
St. Luke’s Hospital in Pennsylvania, for example, partnered with the Rodale Institute, a non-profit dedicated to improving organic agriculture. The pair developed an easy-to-replicate “farm to hospital” model, whereby produce is added to the cafeteria menu and available for sale at a weekly farmer’s market within the hospital. Employees are able to participate in farming activities and new moms are sent home with a complimentary package of produce and healthy recipes.
St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital in Michigan created an onsite organic farm, which provides organic produce for patients’ meals. The hoophouse is wheelchair accessible so patients can visit the facility and there’s an exercise bike that pumps water to irrigate the plants so that even patients with neurological disorders can participate. There is also a weekly farmer’s market within the hospital and any unsold produce is donated to Foodgatherers, a local food bank.
Why hospital farms could be the next step toward a food revolution
People are becoming more conscious about how their diet affects their health and the environment. Consumers want change and are starting to reflect this in their buying patterns. More people are buying locally sourced, non-GMO, plant-based and healthier foods; we are on the verge of a food revolution (check out G & Coletti’s podcast with Ocean Robbins to learn more).
Not only do hospital farms promote a healthier lifestyle for patients, employees, and community members, they also represent a shift in consciousness within the healthcare industry. We have seen the corruption within this industry time and time again, but this type of innovation shows a clear desire for change. Hospital farms could result in huge strives forward for the food revolution and may be a stepping-stone to creating sustainable change within this industry. Perhaps hospital farms reflect the beginning of a new era for healthcare, shifting the focus away from profit and back to health and wellness.
As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”