The flagship products of these corporations receive billions in federal subsidies to keep costs artificially low and the products on every shelf. Unhealthy food isn’t cheaper because it’s less nutrient-dense; it’s cheaper because the government subsidizes its production — and that’s something many Americans simply don’t know about.
The Environmental Working Group reports that the federal government subsidized $261.9 billion dollars between 1995-2010, with the majority of the money going to a select few producers of crops like corn, wheat and soybeans. Other major recipients include the meat and dairy industries. Fruits and vegetables, by comparison, receive 0.37% of subsidies, despite federal nutrition recommendations advocating that one-third of daily food intake be fruits and vegetables.
In 2010, the USDA spent $64.7 billion dollars on food stamps. The same year, the USDA also gave $15 billion dollars in farm subsidies, including $1.7 billion to corn crops, which manufacture the main ingredient in soda — one of the most unhealthy items on many Americans’ daily menus.
At a time when food prices are rising rapidly and health is declining, the federal government is giving money to continue producing products that contribute to illness and obesity, while simultaneously giving people the means to buy these products.
It is as if the government is making the drugs, giving them away, and then wondering why everyone is an addict.
Easy to ignore, the obesity epidemic is often reduced to ridicule in a congress divided over issues like war and unemployment. But this is a crucial juncture, when the convergence of government programs, spending and corporate lobbying is colliding in a way that will impact everyone in America.
What we eat is harming our bodies and our budget. There aren’t any people profiting, only corporations.
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