Laurie and Debbie say:
Michael Pollan, America’s best food-policy writer, is at it again, and this time he’s revealing a very crucial piece of the junk food puzzle.
People who watch American food patterns are aware that “the people with the least amount of money to spend on food are the ones most likely to be overweight.” The beginning of the article tells us what we already know: junk food is much cheaper than good food.
Pollan, however, is interested in why that is true.
Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat Ã¢â‚¬â€ three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades Ã¢â‚¬â€ indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning Ã¢â‚¬â€ U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.
A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.
So what’s going on here, as Pollan so neatly reveals, is that poor people are being basically led (if not forced) into a completely unnatural diet. An unnaturally high-junk diet will not make everyone fat, and we certainly would prefer it if the article was focused on healthy eating rather than “ballooning waistlines.” Nonetheless, that same unnaturally high-junk diet will make a lot of people unnaturally fat, and almost everyone unnaturally unhealthy. We believe that is every bit as disturbing as unnaturally low-calorie diets.
A public-health researcher from Mars might legitimately wonder why a nation faced with what its surgeon general has called Ã¢â‚¬Å“an epidemicÃ¢â‚¬Â of obesity would at the same time be in the business of subsidizing the production of high-fructose corn syrup.
And then what happens? Then people who are already marginalized because they are poor become marginalized yet again for being fat. And the studies show that poor people have more expensive health needs (and now we can blame them for their poor food choices, which then lets us blame them for being fat and lazy, and look! now we can blame them for being poor in the first place).
And the farm lobby, along with the rest of the “fat cats,” stays rich, powerful, and self-righteous.
Thanks to Lynn Kendall for the link.