50 years from now, what will be for dinner?

outdoor dinner
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Food and agriculture experts share their predictions for meals of the future.

Dinner has changed drastically over the past half-century. Gone are the days of pineapple chicken and hamburger helper on every table. These iconic 1970s dishes have been replaced by vegan restaurants, CSA shares, juicing trends, and nose-to-tail/root-to-shoot cooking. This evolution will continue happening, which means that speculating about typical dinners of the 2070s is a point of interest to some researchers and writers. What can we expect, based on the state of the food production system now and the threat of climate change?

Outside Online posed this question to five agriculture, nutrition, and food policy experts, and they come back with some intriguing responses. Three are particularly relevant to TreeHugger and are outlined below, but you can read the whole article here.

1. Don't count on California.

Tom Philpott, food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones, says we won't be able to rely on California for food forever. The state is already being hit hard by wildfires and drought, and there's always "the looming possibility of an overdue catastrophic earthquake."

Based on statistics from the 2017 crop year, the state produces one-third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of its fruit and nuts, so saying goodbye to California would have a drastic effect on the appearance of supermarket shelves, particularly in winter. I'd argue, however, that this shift is already being made somewhat by eaters concerned about the climate impact of shipping out-of-season food so far.

2. Your fridge will become your medicine cabinet.

Anna's family fridge© Anna – A fridge with almost no plastic in it!

Monica Mills, executive director of Food Policy Action, believes that people will clue into the fact that fresh produce is a powerful antidote to disease, and has potential to replace at least some of the numerous medications Americans take on a daily basis. The problem is, it's currently inaccessible to many:

"Farmers are federally incentivized to grow mass crops like corn and soy, but no commodities are given to fruit and vegetable growers. That makes corn-based food — soda, fast-food burgers, nutrition bars — cheaper, says Mills, and it gives low-income individuals less access to healthy, fresh foods."

She expects this will change in coming decades, as low-income households are given vouchers for fresh produce and doctors prescribe produce as medicine.

3. Sustainability will be law.

Tim Giffin is the director of the agriculture, food, and environment program at Tufts University. He says the next fifty years will see the enshrinement of sustainable food production practices into law. Opting for climate-friendly foods will go from being optional to mandatory, as "a greater awareness of how our eating habits impact the planet will, eventually, influence policy."

Problems like food waste will be tackled more seriously, and I imagine this vision for sustainability would extend to water usage, chemicals used in production, transportation, plastic packaging, and hopefully climate-ranking labels on foods. Although none of the experts mentioned this, I think that plant-based and lab-grown meat substitutes will also play a much greater role in future diets.

These are interesting ideas to chew on, but nothing too divergent from what's already happening. Read the whole article here.

50 years from now, what will be for dinner?
Food and agriculture experts share their predictions for meals of the future.

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