Submitted to: Food Systems and Public Health
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2014
Publication Date: 2/1/2015
Citation: Moshfegh, A.J. 2015. Food consumption in the United States. In: Neff, R., Editor. Introduction to the U.S. Food System, Public Health, Environment, and Equity. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p.373-398.
Interpretive Summary: This book chapter entitled “Food Consumption in The United States” is one of 19 chapters in a foundational textbook entitled “Food Systems and Public Health.” The textbook will provide a review of the central issues related to food systems today and how food systems intersect with public health. This chapter focuses on food intakes and eating patterns in the United States and major trends in intakes over the past 30 years while providing an understanding of national dietary surveys conducted in the United States. Despite increased emphasis over the past several years on the importance of diet to maintain health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, diets for many Americans fall short for many nutrients, particularly potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins D and E, and calcium. Further, we are consuming too much sodium, far exceeding the maximum recommended amount, and too many calories from foods that are high in sugar, including sugar sweetened bakery products and sweetened beverages. For calories and most nutrients with the exception of vitamin C, intakes are lower for those in the lowest income status. Lower income status also is a factor in reduced vegetable intake. Major shifts in food consumption have been realized in the past 30 years. Snacking has become a way of life with a majority of Americans snacking at least three or more times a day compared to nearly half of Americans not snacking at all in the late 1970’s. Today, snacking provides one-fourth of our total daily calories. Where our food comes from is also a shift. We eat a third of our calories from away from home sources such as restaurants and fast-food establishments, a doubly from the late 1970’s.
Technical Abstract: Today’s industrial food system has created a food supply that is more plentiful and inexpensive than at any time in history. Nearly a fifth of the U.S. workforce is engaged in producing, manufacturing, distributing, preparing, or selling this food. Food is at the nexus of some of the most significant public health and environmental problems we face today – obesity and other diet-related disease, food insecurity, antibiotic resistance, community and worker exposures to contaminated air, water, and soil, and long-term threats to the food supply through resource depletion and ecological degradation. There is a critical need to increase recognition of the links between agriculture and public health. Students and the general public increasingly express interest in food systems, meaning the intertwined processes, people, inputs and outputs engaged in getting food from farm to community to table, as well as the environmental, social, economic, and political factors that shape and are shaped by what we eat and how it is produced. This chapter entitled “Food Consumption in the United States” is one of 19 chapters in a foundational textbook entitled “Food Systems and Public Health.” The book will provide an evidence-based review of the central issues related to food systems today and how food systems intersect with public health, addressing a critical gap in textbook material on this topic. It will help professors meet the growing demand among public health students and others for academic coursework on food systems topics. This textbook, targeted to graduate students and advanced undergraduates, can be used in courses taught in departments/schools of public health, nutritional science, nursing, medicine, environment, policy, business, social sciences, economics, geography, sociology and planning, as well as in interdepartmental offerings. It will also provide readable educational material for non-students.