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Federal Subsidies Support Junk Food Instead Of Fresh Food, Report Says

Citing the obesity epidemic among America’s children, a California consumer group says federal subsidies support junk food instead of fresh food.

CALPIRG’s report is called “Apples to Twinkies 2012” because it says producers of corn syrup are financially favored over apple growers.

CALPIRG Report: Apples to Twinkies 2012
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Above: CALPIRG Report: Apples to Twinkies 2012

Twinkies and apples were used as props at a San Diego press event stating subsidized junk food is cheaper than healthy fruit and produce.

The report finds that between 1995 and 2011, $18.2 billion in tax dollars subsidized corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch and soy oils. That equals $7.58 per taxpayer per year. It also said taxpayers spent only $637 million since 1995 subsidizing apples.

Comparing apples and Twinkies, the report said the money would buy each taxpayer 21 Twinkies and only half an apple.

Brian Beevers of Brian’s Farmers’ Markets said the public’s tax dollars are allowing for corporate farms to sell their products at much cheaper prices and market that food to children.

“Honestly, it’s hard for a farmer selling romaine lettuce, carrots, apples and other incredible produce to compete with Happy Meals, Pop-Tarts and Easy Mac, especially when it costs less,” he said.

More children are being diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and obesity, said Angela Yvonne, a licensed acupuncturist.

“It’s alarming because it’s happening to such a young population,” she said. “It’s a challenge to retrain people how to eat because all the media, they’re inundated with these low cost snack foods that are really quite unhealthy so I really have to educate them on what pure food is.”

Mindy Swanson, president of San Diego Roots, a sustainable food project organization, said having large industrial farms makes it harder for small farms to exist.

“These subsidies create externalized problems, we have obesity and a lack of access to fresh food,” she said. “Even with our community-sponsored agriculture, creating venues for people who are food insecure, can have access to these fresh food items in this county, is a challenge.”

Supporting local farmers’ products is a way to lower costs for healthy foods, CALPIRG said.

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