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Food System Primer

Food and Nutrition

A basic misconception has stymied our response to the obesity epidemic: the belief that food-related decisions are consciously and deliberately made. Our reluctance to interfere with or regulate the food environment is a direct consequence of the belief that people's food choices reflect their true desires.

– Deborah Cohen and Susan Babey1

Why do people eat what they eat? More than just the product of willpower and personal responsibility, food choices are shaped by income, culture, marketing, food availability, food policy, and a host of other factors, many of which lie outside of individual control. Understanding and leveraging these forces is critical to addressing some of the most pressing public health problems, including diet-related disease, food insecurity, and the global implications of diets high in animal products.

1. Cohen DA, Babey SH. Candy at the cash register - a risk factor for obesity and chronic disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;367(15):1381-3.