A new study released Wednesday in San Diego shows that American taxpayers are subsidizing junk food at a level that dwarfs federal support for healthy foods.
The findings are being used in a campaign that targets Capitol Hill lawmakers.
The California Public Interest Research Group, CalPIRG, found that between 1995 and last year, $18 billion subsidized crops that produce four additives for food that scientists say is anything but healthy.
During that span, only $637 million went toward apples, the only significant fruit or vegetable getting federal aid – the bulk of which goes to large, corporate agri-businesses.
"Let's invest that money back into community farms,” said Barry Braden, co-owner of Local Habit, a Hillcrest organic-food café where CalPIRG members and other diet-conscious activists released their findings.
“Let's invest it in wellness and children's programs that are going to keep kids from growing up to be adults with lots of health issues,” Braden suggested. “And that's what's killing our health system, right? The way we eat!"
Said Mindy Swanson, who chairs an community garden/farmer’s market agricultural movement called San Diego Roots: "We've created a generation of kids who don't even know what fresh food is, and what they're eating is making them have diabetes."
CalPIRG and its allies are lobbying U.S. lawmakers to re-order their priorities when Congress takes up measures to renew Farm Bill subsidies in September.
"Community-supported agriculture, sustainability are hot topics -- and we think it's the right way,” said Braden. “We think it’s the right way to raise our kids. We think it’s the right way to raise our communities, the right way to protect our environment."
Said Brian Beevers, owner of Brian’s Farmers Markets: “Our Farm Bill is making our country fat.”
According to CalPIRG, Uncle Sam bills each taxpayer $7.58 a year for commodity crops that produce junk food -- and 27 cents for apples.
Meaning, our tax money buys 21 Twinkies annually.
But only half an apple.
When it comes to what San Diegans are paying in federal farm subsidies, according to CalPIRG, an aggregate of $4.5 million a year goes to junk-food crops, versus $160,000 to healthy food.
That's the equivalent of 12 million Twinkies, versus 329,000 apples.
At least school cafeterias are offering healthier fare these days.
It’s been several years, for instance, since French fries were served in the San Diego Unified School District.
This, from Gary Petill, director of San Diego Unified’s food and nutrition services: "We're also working with the USDA to look at purchasing more from local farmers and producers of food -- which is really good for the economy -- and they're on the same page with us. It's a whole transformation for them. But we're making the transformation."