Obese children,unhealthy eating habits,…the subsidy debates


Yesterday I blogged about the rising number of hungry children in my own county and related it to a Washington Post article about US hunger. Today I want to look at the rising number of obese children in the US. I am only addressing the food part of the obesity problem today.

The United State’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) says half your diet should be fruits and vegetables, but it doesn’t subsidize the farmers who grow them. Instead, half of all federal agriculture subsidies go to grain farmers, [read mega agri-businesses….my words] whose crops feed animals that yield meat, milk and eggs or become ingredients in processed foods, which are typically unhealthy and aggressively marketed. For example, toaster pastries have long been touted to consumers as breakfast food, but these “treats” contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil to give them a flaky texture and significant amounts of high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten their fruit filling. That translates to a lot of calories and artery-clogging fat as well as little or no fiber.

Ads are now appearing saying that the high-fructose corn syrup is just fine for us. It’s the same as sugar. You will notice that all the people in the ads are a healthy weight and they stress in moderation. This industry is getting concerned because people are buying fewer products containing the HFCS. It’s not the nutritional value of the corn that is the issue. It is the amount of the stuff that is found in almost all processed food that is the concern. Why does everything have to be sweetened?….because sweet foods are addictive. The more we eat the more we want to consume. The more the profit.

As a double whammy if you look at the list on the last link, these are often the cheapest foods that parents can buy. People are adding to that list daily. The parent’s choice is between a child who is constantly hungry and a child who eats foods that are not very nutritious for their growing bodies.

America’s working class families are now just as affected by improper nutrition as those who better-off Americans commonly refer to as the welfare frauds. They have to spend the money they have to get the most food for their dollars. That does NOT include fresh vegetables and fruits even though the US Department of Agriculture says those food groups should be HALF of our daily diet.

Federal farm programs, on the other hand, strive to maintain the financial health of American agriculture. As a result, these subsidized foods are becoming progressively cheaper, while the price of fruit and vegetables keeps rising.

Before I was clued in to the real situation, I would often see mothers with grocery carts full of snack foods. I would rightously shake my head and roll my eyes, not within the sight of the mothers of course, and ask myself why these women were not aware of what they were doing to their children. They would often be accompanied by one or two overweight tots in tow.

I gave the mothers no credit for knowing what was good for their children. I thought that there ought to be a required course of healthy nutrition for these women. How high and mighty I was! I knew I had changed my buying habits and very seldom bought junk food snacks any more. Why couldn’t they?

Here is what the food pyramid says adults should eat each day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet: [much lower for children]

  • 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, or other dairy products.
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetables.
  • 2 cups of fruit.
  • 6 ounces of grains. 
  • 5 1/2 ounces of meat or beans. [ A day…not per meal…including fish and eggs..protein]


Government farm subsidies are currently only given for the following crops

$7.3 billion for corn and other feed grains.

  • $3.5 billion for cotton.
  • $1.6 billion for soybeans.
  • $1.5 billion for wheat.
  • $1.5 billion for tobacco.
  • $686 million for dairy.
  • $626 million for rice.
  • $271 million for peanuts.

Now I realize that grains are an important part of our diet. However, the grains that many Americans are forced to buy are the highly processed  “near food products” . We pay a higher premium for the privilege of eating whole grain foods.

Much of those grains continue to be fed to livestock to produce meat. Cattle are not genetically designed to eat corn. Yet, the beef industry touts “corn-fed beef” as if it were always a good thing. While the working class and chronically poor are struggling to eat anything, others are increasing the amount of meat in their daily diets far beyond the recommended 5 1/2 oz. of meat. According to that last site, I calculate Americans eat approximately 216 lb. of meat (of all kinds) a year. Doing a little more math, that means on a daily average we consume 9.6 oz of meat. That’s almost twice the 5 1/2 oz. recommended amount.

Many people have criticized the Obama administration since the beginning. One thing that, in my opinion, is being done right is Michelle Obama’s efforts to bring the childhood obesity problem to national conscious awareness. There is also effort starting in the agricultural department.

While fruit and vegetable growers have access to federal crop insurance, and the USDA spends more than $400 million a year buying produce and other commodities for the school lunch program, that still doesn’t add up to the billions spent on grains, cotton, soybeans, wheat, tobacco, dairy, rice and peanuts. In order to maintain a consistent message and encourage Americans of all income levels to purchase the nutrient-rich foods that will help achieve a healthy lifestyle, the government should consider restructuring its farm subsidy policies to support the eating habits outlined by the USDA food pyramid. To address this issue, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has begun a series of “listening sessions” across the country to gather input for the next farm bill, which dictates how subsidies are distributed. Hopefully this will be a step in the right direction, ensuring that fresh fruits and vegetables will be made more affordable to all Americans.

Folks, for those of you who enjoy war, be prepared. You are in for a treat. The agri-businesses that get the subsidies are not going to willingly concede any of their money to the agri-businesses (let alone the dwindling amount of independent farmers) who do not get government support. The lobbyists will be going at it tooth and nail. I am predicting that the agri-businesses with the deepest pockets who find the most open hands and coffers of the biggest politicians will be the winners. But who are the losers? Our children. The ones who are currently being predicted to die at ever earlier ages from this travesty. If you want a real eye-opener, watch Food, Inc., a 2008 documentary about what is really going on with the  food for everyone in this nation, not just  the obese kids. Think about it. Namaste. Attic Annie


1 Comment

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One response to “Obese children,unhealthy eating habits,…the subsidy debates

  1. Sadly, you also see the influence of subsidies in the Food Pyramid. The Food Pyramid is not designed to help you make sound dietary choices but to allow food companies to increase their profits. If we are ever going to improve the current health care crisis, our nation’s food policy must be addressed and corrected.