November 4, 2013
Obesity: Who is Responsible?
America is one of the most obese countries in the world, and this has continuously become worse over the past 30 years. Eating healthier and exercising frequently can decrease the percentage of obesity in America, but does everybody have that opportunity? Low-income areas are filled with families who need to find ways to support themselves with the least of money they can, so they purchase what’s cheap, and what’s cheap is junk food. Whether it’s junk food in the grocery store, or junk food through fast food industries, these unhealthy options are the only options for many families due to the in-prices when compared to healthier options. The origin of this problem can be explained through subsidies, and they also provide the solution. The government needs to subsidize healthier crops, and not so much crops involved in processed foods, because it would allow a more equal opportunity for purchasing healthier items. Once these healthy options are readily available and affordable for all Americans, they are given the responsibility of managing their own health.
By changing what is subsidized, it would provide cheap but healthy options for those who previously couldn’t afford it, especially for those in low-income areas. Families located in these low-income areas are, in a way, forced into obesity. Fast food franchises aggressively target these cities (Critser 42), offering abundant meals for a fraction of the cost that a full meal at a grocery store would cost. This leaves heads of households with the choice of purchasing a small amount of healthy food and risking their families being hungry, or supplying their families with plentiful meals that has high risks of heart disease and diabetes. Fast food companies aren’t concerned with the effects of their product, they care about maximizing their profit, and these inner cities and their increasing need for cheap meals is what fuels the fast food industry (Critser 42). Much of what we subsidize now, such as corn and soybeans, is used in processed foods, including fast food. The United States Department of Agriculture supports these subsidies, yet at the same time promotes healthy eating habits. What needs to happen is the government must “begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption” (Bittman).
Ironically, consumer habits essentially control what is subsidized because the government subsidizes what is highest in demand. Americans seem to have developed a thirst for unhealthy food items over the past few decades. By giving into this thirst, they’ve inadvertently changed the ways of the food industry. The Farm Bill is what determines what foods and crops are to be subsidized, and it is determined by the demand of consumers in America. In her discussion of the Farm Bill, Alice Waters states, “Between 1985 and 2000, the price of sugary and high fat foods declined nearly 25 percent, while the cost of fruits and vegetables grew by almost 40 percent” (Waters 31). While this statistic is alarming, it is not surprising. She proceeded to explain “…the farm bill offers little, if any, support to the California farmers who produce nearly half of our nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables…” (Waters 31). An immediate question to this statement is why aren’t these farmers receiving more support if they’re supplying a sizable amount of the nations fruits and vegetables? These farmers still have to make a living, so they must sell their products at a higher price to stores, and the stores then sell it at an even higher price in order for them to make a profit. It’s a vicious cycle, but can be fixed if we begin subsidizing these farmer’s healthier crops, rather than crops such as corn and soybeans. While corn and soybeans appear to be a type of healthier crop, it is the way they are used in the production of foods that promotes unhealthy eating habits. Mark Bittman stated in his