Glasgow Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Nutrition

Could it be that guerrilla nutrition will do more to improve public health than all the puffery offered up by government, nonprofits, and the food industry? The tireless Canadian champion of social media Yoni Freedhoff thinks so. In a new commentary published by U.S. News and World Report, he scoffs at Coke and Pepsi offering to help us with our weight. He also points to inane government policymaking in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

As usual, Freedhoff has a point. Not that we shouldn’t engage, cajole, and otherwise pressure business and government to shape up and act more responsibly. But the real power to reshape the nutrition environment lies at the grass roots. Freedhoff calls for guerrilla nutrition that starts at home, fans out to the schools, and then takes over whole communities with an expectation of better food everywhere we turn.

Mark Bittman is echoing Freedhoff’s theme in the New York Times today, saying:

To a large extent, you can fix the food system in your world today. Three entities are involved in creating our food choices: business (everything from farmers to PepsiCo), government (elected and appointed officials and their respective organizations) and the one with the greatest leverage, the one that you control: you.

In some sense, this guerrilla nutrition is already at work. Sugary drinks are in a nosedive — not because of heavy-handed government regulation, but because grass-roots consumers are rejecting them. In a briefing at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting (FNCE), we learned that all consumers are demanding health and wellness benefits from the food they buy. General Mills has discovered that a committed core — 13% of all consumers — are unyielding in their demands and leading this trend. Another 20% are following their lead and forming an inner circle of health-oriented consumers who will not accept highly processed, food-like products. Other consumers are trying to catch up.

The food industry understands this dynamic. Some will try to divert and exploit it. But the smart players will yield to consumers who are expecting more.

What do we need to power this guerrilla nutrition revolution? Good translation of real nutrition science into useful information to further empower consumers. Hyperbole, dogma, and junk science won’t cut it.

Click here to read Freedhoff’s essay and here to read more from his blog. Click here to read Bittman’s view.

Glasgow Guerrilla Gardening, photograph © Michael Gallacher / flickr

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