The Future of Food: Predictions from Michael Pollan

His thoughts on America’s food system for a whole new generation of eaters.

Award-winning author and food activist Michael Pollan changed the way many Americans think about food with his New York Times bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin, 2006). With a young reader’s edition of the book being released in October, his thoughts on America’s food system will reach a whole new generation of eaters.

Why should kids read The Omnivore’s Dilemma?

For the same reason anyone should read it—to know where your food is coming from. The source of our food is very often hidden from us. When kids go into a fast-food outlet, they have no idea where that chicken nugget or those French fries came from. Also, to understand the links between their habits and their health. When you know those things, I think you can make better choices about what to eat.

What’s the single most important thing we can do to reduce childhood obesity?

Stop drinking soda. Or at least return soda to its place as a special-occasion drink. There are too many children in America who are drinking soda all day long and are consuming 1,000 calories a day in the form of liquid candy. If they only had soda once a week, I think it would do a lot to prevent or cure childhood obesity.

What can we do to make our food system healthier?

We need people in Congress willing to take up the cause. The most hopeful thing that could happen is health-care reform. If insurers were not able to pick and choose their clients and were responsible for everybody’s health, they’d have a strong interest in preventing every new case of type 2 diabetes. It costs $174 billion annually in the U.S. to treat diabetes. So there’s big money to be saved in preventing it. If that happens, I think you’d see insurers working hard to reform the food system.

How do you think the American diet will be different in 50 years?

I hope it will be more local, more seasonal and that people will cook more. My fear is that food will be more processed and people will cook less. And that there will be some industry pretending that they’ve figured out how to put whatever we’ve decided constitutes healthy food into a cereal bar or a pill.

What’s your guiltiest food pleasure?

I have a weakness for potato chips and I love chocolate, but I enjoy them more because I’m not eating them every day. It’s like the pleasure of the seasonal strawberry: its flavor is so much more intense than the all-year strawberry.

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