Most of us know by now that eating too many Twinkies is unhealthy. Additionally, with 39 ingredients made into one little snack cake, it should cost considerably more than a carrot you simply grow and pull out of the ground, right? Not so fast.
I’m about to bring up farm subsidies, but don’t run away! It’s actually quite interesting. I fell asleep in economics class as well, but that’s because they failed to make realistic and interesting comparisons such as the price of a carrot to the price of a Twinkie, like they do so well in the embedded video from CALPIRG below.
The gist of it is that back in the 1940s when farms were family businesses, the government gave them tax dollars to help their crop production through poverty, drought and other conditions that were putting them at risk of going out of business. Over time, me farms went from family businesses to large corporations, with those who created the largest amounts of crops receiving the most amount of subsidies. Eventually, only 4% of farms were receiving more than half of the subsidized dollars. Sound imbalanced? That’s because it is.
The highly subsidized farms grow large amounts of corn, which is used to create corn meal, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn flower, cornstarch, partially hydrogenated corn oil, and other ingredients used in cheap, processed food such as Twinkies. Out of the 39 ingredients in a Twinkie, 12 of them are subsidized. This means you, the taxpayer, have essentially paid for the production of the Twinkie before even buying it at the store.
These subsidies are part of the reason why it’s so cheap to eat so badly. Nearly one-third of a Twinkie’s ingredients are subsidized, while a carrot yanked from the ground has zero subsidized ingredients.
These subsidies, ranging from $10-30 billion in distribution a year, make processed foods made from subsidized corn meal unimaginably cheap. According to CALPIRG, a 2,000-calorie diet consisting solely of junk food would cost only $3.52 a day. Junk foods processed with high fructose corn syrup and other cheap ingredients made from subsidized crops are leading to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. One in five children between ages 6 to 11 are obese, and one in three kids since the year 2000 are on track for diabetes.
The statistics speak for themselves. Government subsidies are essentially supporting obesity and diabetes in adults AND children. Shouldn’t these funds be distributed amongst farmers who are growing vegetables, fruits and whole grains rather than those who are harvesting Twinkies and Little Debbie Snack Cakes? Maybe then, a bag of carrots will cost less than a tank of gas.
If you’d like to help make a change, CALPIRG offers a simple way to send a letter to your senators, asking to end subsidies on unhealthy foods. For more information on farm subsidies, there is information available on the Environmental Working Group website. Over time, we can only hope more people will catch on and make an effort to give healthy vegetable farmers the funds they need to grow plentiful, inexpensive, organic crops.