Archive for Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Doctors blaming rising obesity rates on farm aid

October 31, 2007


— If you're feeling fat these days, blame Congress.

That's just what the nation's doctors are doing, saying federal lawmakers are responsible for the fact that a salad costs so much more than a Big Mac.

Hoping to produce thinner waistlines, many doctors - including the American Medical Association - want Congress to stop subsidizing the production of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and spend more to promote fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that are not.

Farm Belt lawmakers are on the defensive.

"I agree that obesity and health are serious issues in America today," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "However, blaming the cause on the crops that we grow in Kansas and/or the U.S. farm program is overlooking the personal responsibility we all have in our daily lives and diets."

The debate is intensifying as the Senate prepares to vote on a new farm bill. On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill that would give a record $2 billion for specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. That's at least four times as much as what Congress provided in 2002, when it approved the last farm bill.

The 2007 farm bill will determine which food industries get the most help from U.S. taxpayers over the next five years.

"The real scandal in Washington is the farm bill," said Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. "Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch program. Companies get rich, and kids get fat."

Fruit and vegetable growers, who have long felt ignored on Capitol Hill, are confident they'll cash in this year. They want to persuade Congress to broaden subsidies beyond traditional farm crops such as corn, wheat, rice and cotton.

"Our markets are highly volatile, yet we have never relied on traditional farm programs to sustain our industry," said Doug Krahmer, co-owner of Blue Horizon Farms in St. Paul, Ore., which grows blueberries, grass seed, hazelnuts, clover, wheat, flower seeds and flowers. Testifying at a recent congressional field hearing, Krahmer said he supports a future farm policy that will not only support American agriculture but also "will support and encourage the health and well-being of all Americans."

Krahmer noted that on any given day 45 percent of children eat no fruit at all, while 20 percent eat less than one serving of vegetables.

All U.S. children would benefit if Congress offered subsidies to lower the prices that consumers pay for fruits and vegetables, he said.

With the nation's obesity rates rising dramatically in recent years, doctors are jumping into the debate with increased fervor.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, agribusiness political action committees have given more than $5 million over the last four election cycles to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. And from 1995 to 2004, nearly three-quarters of farm bill agricultural subsidies for food - or more than $51 billion - went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and feed crops used for cattle and other farm animals. The group said that in 2005 alone, Tyson Foods, the nation's largest meat producer, received $46.6 million in USDA commodity contracts. Less than half of 1 percent subsidized fruit and vegetable production, according to the physicians.

Physicians are alarmed, saying the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods subsidized by the farm bill then find their way into the national school lunch program, contributing to obesity.

Members of Congress have been hearing a similar message from many different quarters this year.


seriouscat 10 years, 7 months ago

Well it's about time! I've been complaining to anyone who will listen about corn subsidies for a couple years now. Corn syrup is in EVERYTHING these days from bread to beef patties and it's because its practically free.

I'm so happy to actually see some discussion on this and I hope it really does make a difference. Course, the best practice would be to eliminate farm subsidies altogether but hell ain't gettin any colder so...

storm 10 years, 7 months ago

I really, really hope the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine can do something. I know alot of docs are busy working in their respective practices and it's going to be hard to go against those farmers who are used to getting welfare (also known as subsidies).

gr 10 years, 7 months ago

"to anyone who will listen about corn subsidies" Is corn a vegetable or a grain?

Anyway, how would increased subsidies help with the fat little kids who say, 'I don't really care for vegetables' no matter how much less a salad costs than a Big Mac?

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

If McDonalds were to give away salads and fruit, the kids would still buy burgers and fries, instead.

lawrencechick 10 years, 7 months ago

More's not what you eat, it's how much you eat. Stop super-sizing everything and you can eat what ever you want. Stop handing your kids soda 4 times a day and get the family off the couch.

cowboy 10 years, 7 months ago

What a crock of crapola , the real problem is lazy a$$ parents who won't take the time to cook a decent meal for their family and sit down at a dinner table.

person184 10 years, 7 months ago

Defender (Anonymous) says:

I am all for personal responsibility, but it seems almost like you cannot buy food without corn syrup in it anymore.

Agreed! If it's more expensive to eat healthy, I wonder what people with less $$ do? We all need some accountability, but if you have $25 for groceries, you are not going get far with healthy foods. I have always felt it strange that some people who decry welfare programs feel it's ok to accept subsidies for farming.

ksdivakat 10 years, 7 months ago

ok I seriously have to get in on this, I dont care if its government, lazy parenting, price gouging, or the fact that the moon is made of cheese.....It is a real point that junk food is much cheaper than healthy food. Point in case, at hyvee, a pound of red grapes is 3.98$ while a bag of doritos, which will lat longer is on sale for 1.99$. This could go on and on and on as I have made it a point to check out the prices of healthy foods vs junk foods. My kids do not have any video games and they must participate in at least 3 school activities per semester and one must be something physical, and my daughter is still over weight. Shes not obese, but shes 10-15 pounds over what she should be. I dont know what the answer is, but I do know that healthy food is more expensive and thats a problem, for most people in these parts.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

Here is how to avoid food with corn syrup added: cook from scratch with fresh products.

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

ksdivakat, a 1/2 cup of grapes (a serving of fruit) has more nutrition in it than an entire bag of Doritos. So does a carrot or piece of celery cut in strips and dipped in peanut butter. It isn't quantity that counts, it is quality. I do not know if the book is still available, but I could not have raised my kids on the sparse budget we lived on without "Taming the Cookie Monster."

ksdivakat 10 years, 7 months ago

I understand it has more nutrition in it, but how long does it last? a 1 pound bag of grapes at 3.98$ a pound, and at a 1/2 cup serving will last 2 maybe 3 servings? Where the bag of doritos will last all week long. IT should be the other way around! It should cost more for junk food and high calorie foods and less for healthier foods. By the way, Im gonna google that book and see if I can get my hands on it!! Thanks for the info!

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

I had the title wrong. It is "The Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y. Monster," by Vicki Lansky Continuously, Adverstised, Nutritionally, Deficient, Yummies! by Vicki Lansky, published by Meadowbrook Press

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

Ksdivakat, it does not matter how long the food "lasts" if it has zero nutritional value. The only thing you accomplish by giving your kids Doritos is to add fat to their bodies and keep their mouths busy for a few minutes.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 7 months ago

There's no doubt that white-trash food costs less than the healthy stuff, but economics shouldn't be a reason for people to allow themselves to become fat slobs. Instead of buying four boxes of Little Debbie Snack Cakes, buy a few apples instead.

MerryPresent 10 years, 7 months ago

At daughter's party last weekend, we ordered 3 pizzas from Pizza Hut --

Super Supreme.

Grilled chicken with cheese and vegetables.


Two fattest kids turned up their noses at it all-- each one said they ate nothing from Pizza Hut but pepperoni pizza, or cheese sticks, and that's it. MIL said "too bad." And they didn't eat it! They just continued to stuff themselves on chips, soda and candy. ICK!

So if Fat Brats won't even eat vegetables, even when they're draped with cheese and sitting on fatsy bread -- what do we do? Pizza Hut's far from healthy, but dayem I couldn't believe how spoiled and unhealthy they were. They both seemed a bit "slow," too.

Confrontation 10 years, 7 months ago

"More's not what you eat, it's how much you eat. "

This isn't entirely true. If you're eating one hamburger, rather than five, you're still clogging your arteries. Sure, you may be thinner if you eat less, but it doesn't mean your cholesterol isn't high and your heart is healthy. That's one major problem with the weight loss industry. You lose weight and fit into those ugly skinny-leg jeans, but you're about ready to have a heart attack. Your cheerleaders and track stars may not have a healthier heart than your less athletic teen if they are filling their plates with trash. What I don't understand is why posters on here have an issue with making fruits and veggies cheaper. Since everyone on here claims to eat super healthy foods, then it could only benefit all of us.

Confrontation 10 years, 7 months ago

MerryPresent: It's interesting how you blast the overweight kids, but you're the one ordering the unhealthy crap in the first place. They possibly have role models just like you in their daily lives. Role models who feed them fattening pizza (even vegetarian pizza isn't healthy), chips, soda, and candy. Why not offer them real healthy options while they're at your party? No, you just like to make fun of them.

Linda Aikins 10 years, 7 months ago

"Why blame Willie Nelson? He jogs everyday, he even has a biodiesel tour bus: Why blame Willie?"

R_I shoots and scores!!! Too bad no one is awarding points anymore!

Godot 10 years, 7 months ago

Are the farm subsidies offset by the bio-energy subsidies, or do they just pile up on on top of each other, making Cargill and other big agriculture corporations doubly rich?

engr 10 years, 7 months ago

"It is a real point that junk food is much cheaper than healthy food." It's the way things are. Junk is cheaper than items of quality.

If all junk food were taxed to prohibitive levels or banned from the shelves altogether, would the price of grapes change?

budwhysir 10 years, 7 months ago

I knew it wasnt my fault when I got that sunburn

gr 10 years, 7 months ago

"I am all for personal responsibility, but it seems almost like you cannot buy food without corn syrup in it anymore."

That's because people liiiiiike it.

"If it's more expensive to eat healthy, " "if you have $25 for groceries, you are not going get far with healthy foods."

Fallacy of the assumed premise. Please give comparative evidence. First you have to define "far". Is it volume, weight, calories, nutrition, or just foods you "like"? Then you need to define what "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods are. Then, you need to show what $25 will buy of unhealthy food and what it would by of healthy food.

Just a hunch, but I expect there to be great complaints over your definitions and lists.

Comparing a pound of grapes to a bag of doritos is not going to cut it. Why that comparison? Why not a tomato to sirloin steak? Do we just pick and choose one that makes our point? You need to have some basis of comparison.

"but how long does it last? " "Where the bag of doritos will last all week long."

Hahahahhahahahahhahah!!!!!!!!!!!! Not according to the looks of some! If you are going timewise, how much celery can you buy and how long would that last? What if you ate one grape a day? How long will a bag of sawdust last? Get the point?

"why posters on here have an issue with making fruits and veggies cheaper" Cheaper than what? It hasn't been established they aren't ALREADY cheaper than unhealthy food.

"I will let everyone in on a little secret, exercise." Ain't gonna do it. True, healthy people exercise, but how much exercising do you have to do to remove the calories of that pizza slice? Especially when you get back and have another slice? It's a budget issue. Reverse of the debtors. Inputs cannot exceed outputs.

As an aside (or perhaps not...), anyone know of an obese person who ISN'T in debt?

gr 10 years, 7 months ago

So no one has presented a comparative expense list of junk food versus healthy food.

What can one conclude due to lack of response?

-No one considers it worth the effort. Easier to make things up than verify them.

-They did put forth the effort and didn't want to admit defeat.

-No one has thought through their whining to decide with what basis you would go about comparing cost. Is it volume, weight, calories, nutrition, effort to ingest.... Or is it frequency of doctor visits?

What I would guess is there are fat people out there making such statements because they refuse to take responsibility for their poor choices and curb or adjust their intake. They whine and complain about some imaginary cost issue which they have never considered with any basis so they can feel justified in continuing their indulgence of unhealthy "food". They have so mismanaged their money resources, they hope to get sympathy claiming cost as an issue.

There may be some people who have no respect for their finances but do have respect for their bodies. However, I would venture to say that those who have no respect for their bodies have no respect for their finances, nor anything nor anybody else. Now some may say there are exceptions - if so, what are you doing TODAY to address those issues? Scarfing down big macs, pizza, ...well, you know the items - don't pretend otherwise - popular items, popular as in look at how "popular" the average weight has become.... is not, "addressing" the problem.

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