Absolutely. I never understood why food is so abundant in the game when the world is supposed to be so broken and shattered - and even less when my channeler didn't have to pour her Essence into the land to revive it - giving some of her very life/soul/power to the land to allow it to live.
I agree with your whole post.
well, the problem is that the system is so rigid and in the event of a food shortfall you get situations where "i can't do anything because my food supply is too low," potentially even aquire more food, resulting in paralysis. in other words, simply reducing food availability could be even worse than the issues currently caused by oversupply.
if you use food to limit the number of houses you can build, you have one of only two possible situations at any given time: you have more than you need because all your cities have enough houses to grow at any given time (and if you have much more than this you gain no advantage from it at all) or you don't have enough to expand (potentially devastating). it's no suprise that over the course of development supply has increased to make the former more common as it is the lesser of two evils.
if food is used to determine pop growth in the manner i described, the system becomes much softer: it is an inabler, rather than a limiter, which as a concept is much more fun to work with.
really, if we use food for pop growth instead of charging food maint/building, we're within striking distance of removing maintenance costs for all buildings (other than research buildings obviously) which would IMHO be awesome. most players have the tendency to want to build everything and get their settlements as developed as possible, and i think it's best to work WITH that instinct. when you have building maintenance you end up with horrible situations where players have to get out a calculator to work out if a market brings in more money than it cost in maintenance, which is horrible as a prospect. strategy games are more fun when players have to choose between different positives, instead of having to work out if a decision will benefit them or not. this is a conversation for another time however.