Understanding The Government’s Role In Keeping Your Junk Food So Cheap

Life & Culture Editor
07.21.16 5 Comments
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Information on healthy eating has never been more plentiful. Thousands of sites are devoted to teaching you how to eat right, where to shop for the best produce, and what foods to blend together for a super powered smoothie. But even with all those tips and recipes just a swipe away, America remains mired in an obesity epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down. But is it completely on us that we’re not eating more salad (spoiler alert: you should be eating more salad), or are there other factors at play?

According to The New York Times, one reason that Americans are so into carb-filled confections glazed with tons of sugar comes down to simple economics. Junk food is cheaper, we all know that, but why? As it turns out, the same government that urges you to eat healthily and classifies a granola bar as a dessert also subsidizes the growth and production of ingredients that make “cheat day foods” more and more readily available. The money from those subsidies comes from tax dollars that we pay every year. So, if you want to tease the logic out a little further, you could say, “We’re paying to finance our obesity.”

The crops and foods that the government subsidizes — “corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk, and meat” — may not seem so bad. Soybeans can be good for you! Corn is healthy, right?

Unfortunately, many of these raw products get funneled straight into snack food production. From The New York Times:

Between 1995 and 2010, the government doled out $170 billion in agricultural subsidies to finance the production of these foods, the latter two in part through subsidies on feed grains. While many of these foods are not inherently unhealthy, only a small percentage of them are eaten as is. Most are used as feed for livestock, turned into biofuels or converted to cheap products and additives like corn sweeteners, industrial oils, processed meats and refined carbohydrates.

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