Government Subsidizes Junk Food More Than Produce

$16.9 billion spent on supporting four food additives.
The government is spending more on food additives than on fresh fruits and vegetables. And we wonder what causes our obesity problem... (Photo: Getty Images)
Sep 23, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

A new report [.pdf] from a California-based watchdog groups says that the federal government is spending billions of dollars to support the production of food additives like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils—while providing only a fraction of that amount for fresh produce.

The report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food,” from CALPIRG, blasts the government’s agriculture spending priorities as the nation is facing an obesity epidemic. 

Among its key findings:

  • Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion of U.S. taxpayer money was spent on subsidizing four common food additives: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils.
  • Outside of commodity crops like corn and soybeans, the government spent considerably less money on subsidies. For example, apples received $262 million in taxpayer support since 1995, “the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits and vegetables,” the report states.
  • The massive junk food subsidies come out to $7.36 per taxpayer per year—enough for 19 Twinkies.
  • By contrast, the government only spends 11 cents per taxpayer per year. That’ll buy you 1/4 of a Red Delicious apple.
  • Put another way: the feds spend enough for each New York City resident to buy more than 73 million Twinkies, but less than a million apples. 

“The fact that so many tax dollars are being wasted on junk food demonstrates the need to reform the national agricultural subsidies and end this wasteful spending,” the report’s authors write. 

The report singles out the USDA for criticism for both administering a subsidy program that favors commodity foods and grains and proteins, while also making nutritional recommendations that stress the importance of fruits and vegetables. 

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