Food Math 101

Food Math 101

Chefs & Experts

Food Math 101


The numbers behind what we’re eating are not adding up.

Earlier this year, I was asked to speak to a group of 6th graders at a middle school in New London, CT. The title of my presentation was Food Math 101, and my primary focus was sustainability–as it relates to the amount of land, water and energy required to produce the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.).

As a result of that event, there are now 220 youngsters in New London who know far more about Food Math than most of our public officials, physicians and scientists. Sadly, even though our way of eating is grossly unsustainable for the long-term, none of our prominent state or national leaders are taking notice–or doing anything to reverse the deadly trends of the past 60 years.

Here are a few of the questions on the take-home quiz that we completed during my presentation.

  1. What is the best way that we can save the most water?
  2. What do the strongest animals in the world eat?
  3. Where do those strong animals get their protein?
  4. How can we prevent or reverse heart disease and type 2 diabetes?
  5. How many of the millions of species do not live in harmony with nature?
  6. What is the healthiest diet for humans and for the planet?
  7. How many people can the Earth feed the S.A.D., with the land that we have?

As for Question #7, all of the kids in each session participated in a startling visualization that they won’t forget. I used “football fields” to make my point. Since it takes roughly two football fields worth of land to feed one human the S.A.D. and the Earth only has about six billion football fields of arable land, it was easy for them to figure out that Mother Earth could only feed a maximum of 3 billion people that horribly wasteful diet.

That, of course, would leave 4 billion starving. I asked about 2/3 of the class to stand for this exercise–illustrating the 4 billion who would starve. It got their attention. On the other hand, if everyone ate more health-promoting, whole, plant-based foods, all 7 billion humans could be fed with just one or two billion football fields–freeing up 4 or 5 billion football fields that could be returned to nature.

This is just one example of why our Standard American way of Eating is unsustainable. It is also the leading cause of global warming, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It’s time to share this valuable information with our children at all ages. Click here for more about my presentation, including access to all 75 of the mostly-pictorial presentation slides.


Opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Food Channel.


20 Sep

If you haven’t had pumpkin soup, you are missing a delightful dining experience. This savory soup is ideal for one of those first (…)

28 Aug

Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette of Little Donkey in Cambridge, Massachusetts, add miso to their addictive banana bread to give it a (…)

More TFC