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Thursday, October 15, 2009

On World Food Day: Crunching the Numbers


On World Food Day: Crunching the Numbers

by Roger Doiron

Tomorrow is World Food Day and since I can't invite you all over for dinner, I thought I'd serve up a smorgasbord of facts and figures about the way the US and the world eat or don't eat, as the case may be.

The menu isn't all bad, but I'll warn you that too much of it could lead to mental and emotional indigestion. The good news is that if you live in the developed world and you don't like what you're served, another option is only a few steps away or, in the case of online food-for-thought, mouse-clicks away. That said, I'd urge you to finish your plate and consider sharing a bite with others.

If I sound like a parent, it's because I am which is one of the reasons I feel compelled to mix these eclectic issues together in one big pot. If we can all start seeing the connections between food, health, and the environment and teaching our children to do the same, perhaps we can serve up a more palatable offering of food statistics in their lifetime.

So, let's dig in:

  • 1: number of new kitchen gardens planted at the White House this year AP
  • 1943: the last time food was grown at the White House White House
  • 20 million: the number of new gardens planted in 1943 LA Times
  • 40%: percentage of nation's produce coming from gardens in 1943 LA Times
  • 7 million: estimated number of new food gardens planted in the US in 2009 NGA
  • $2000: amount of savings possible per year from a 40' x 40' garden KGI
  • 90%: percentage of fruit/vegetable varieties lost in the US the last 100 years CNN
  • 3500: number of vegetable varieties owned by Monsanto Monsanto
  • 18,467: number of new small farms counted in the last agricultural census USDA
  • 4,685: number of farmers markets nationwide USDA
  • 4,100: number of Wal-mart stores and clubs in the US Wal-mart
  • 187,000 ft2 : average area of a Wal-mart superstore Wal-mart
  • 60,112 ft2: average area of a farmers' market USDA
  • 9.5 million: number of imported food shipments arriving in the US each year Huffington Post
  • 226,377: number of establishments registered to export food to the US Huffington Post
  • 200: number of on-site inspections of these establishments conducted by the FDA last year Huffington Post
  • 76 million: number of people who fall ill each year due to food poisoning CDC
  • 50 gallons: volume of sugared beverages consumed per person in the US each year LA Times
  • 22,727: number of Olympic-sized swimming pools those beverages would fill Answers.com
  • $15 billion: annual estimated revenue of a penny-per-ounce tax on soda LA Times
  • $20.5 billion: Coca-Cola's gross profit in 2008 Coca-Cola
  • 72 million: number of American adults considered obese CDC
  • 33%: percentage of US children likely to develop obesity or Type 2 diabetes CDC
  • 10-15 years: average number of years their lives will be shortened as a result CDC
  • 57 years: average age of the American farmer USDA
  • 25 days: average shelf-life of a Twinkie Snopes
  • 350 parts per million: sustainable level of CO2 in atmosphere 350.org
  • 390 parts per million: current level of CO2 in the atmosphere NOAA
  • 31%: percentage of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions attributable to food and agriculture IPCC
  • 2020: year by which many geologists feel the world will have reached "peak oil" production UK Research Centre
  • 10 calories: average amount of fossil fuel energy required to produce 1 calorie of food energy in industrialized food systems Cornell
  • 29,100 calories: estimated fossil fuel calories required to produce one order of Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries Men's Health
  • 1 billion: number of hungry people in the world in 2009 FAO
  • 9.1 billion: projected world population in the year 2050 US Census
  • 70%: percentage increase in global food production required to feed that projected population FAO
  • 70%: percentage of world's fresh water used for agricultural purposes UNESCO
  • 1.8 billion: number of people expected to experience "water scarcity" in the year 2025 UNEP
  • 0: number of new, oil-rich, water-rich, fertile and inhabitable planets we are likely to discover in the next 40 years
  • 1: number of people needed to make a positive difference in any of the above: you!

Roger Doiron is Founding Director of Kitchen Gardeners International, an IATP Food and Society Fellow, and, if you believe the folks at Huffington Post, one of the top Green Game Changers of 2009. After the heartbreaking sweep of the Red Sox Sunday, he recently changed his own game from baseball to football.

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