More U.S. Tax Dollars Spent on Junk Food than Fruit

The Iowa Public Interest Research Group has just taken a look at how U.S. government food subsidies are being allocated. They made a pretty shocking observation. More government subsidies are being spent on junk food than food with any nutritional benefit.

Nearly $17 Billion Spent on Junk
The study analyzed the amount of money the government spent buying food from 1995 to 2010.They found that almost $17 billion was spent on junk food. This food included foods from manufacturers who exclusively used corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable oils as key ingredients.

Apples were the only food that the government spent any meaningful amount of money on. Altogether they spent about $262 million on apples. Why is our government spending 65 times as much money on Twinkies and skittles as apples?

Despite all the efforts the government has taken to address concerns of childhood obesity, they have not done much to make the problem better. The food pyramid they came up with in 1992 turned out to be completely bogus. At least the Department of Agriculture was making an attempt to address these issues then.

More U.S. Tax Dollars Spent on Junk Food than Fruit Now the government is actively making key health problems such as childhood obesity and diabetes worse. Ironically, this study comes out at a time when many politicians such as Michele Obama are campaigning to end childhood obesity. They may have to reevaluate the programs their own government has come up with and do something different.

Ultimately, U.S. taxpayers are the one’s footing the bill!

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?
THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four - for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas - costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 - and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Michael Russo is a policy analyst for the Public Interest Research Group. He finds it absurd that we are spending so much of our taxpayers’ money on junk food when we have a childhood obesity problem.

Russo notes that thirty years ago, only one in fifteen children between the ages of 6 and 11 was obese. Today, one in five children in that age range is. In addition to all the money taxpayers are spending on junk food now, the obesity epidemic is going to equate to hundreds of billions of dollars in medical costs.

Effects of Future Budget Cuts

Following the debt ceiling debacle, the government is looking to cut about $1.2 trillion from the budget. As Michele Obama and politicians across the country take a harder look at nutrition, they may have to address the amount of money the federal government is spending on junk food.

The federal government is expected to cut payments to farmers to about 40% what they were giving them in 2004. As they do so, serious decisions will need to be made on what types of food they are spent on.

Russo and others in his field are putting pressure on Congress to make these decisions. They hope Congress will recognize that they are fueling the obesity epidemic and force them to get their priorities straight.


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