Even as the rate of obesity is increasing in unprecedented amounts, junk food companies are lobbying to increase consumers’ ability to purchase fast food.
Yum! Brands, owner of fast food restaurants KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, is lobbying to make food stamps a form of payment in Kentucky, the sixth most obese state in the country. Only three other states - Arizona, California, and Michigan - currently allow food stamps as legal tender.
Allowing residents of Kentucky, which is also the fifth worst state for fruit and vegetable consumption, greater access to nutritionally-devoid products would be extremely detrimental to their health.
The main argument for allowing food stamps at fast food restaurants is that it provides equal access to food. However, the Centers for Disease Control offers grants to states to fight obesity and expand options for low-or-no income persons, which includes community gardens, new or improved grocery options and healthier independent stores like mom-and-pop cornershops. An increase in these options would eliminate the need for anyone to ingest fast food, regardless of income.
In addition, the debate is raising the issue of how to actually define “food” itself. In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is currently at odds with food manufacturers, who are outraged over his proposal to blacklist sugary drinks and pop from food stamp purchases.
A recent New York Times article, “Soft Drink Industry Fights Proposed Food Stamp Ban,” states that the non-profit Feeding America, an “antihunger” group, opposes Bloomberg’s plan. Feeding America is actually governed by a board of directors composed of executives from companies including Kraft, ConAgra, Mars, Inc., and General Mills - companies whose unhealthy products are composed mainly of the ingredients Bloomberg is determined to eliminate from eligibility for food stamps.
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