By Samantha Aguirre
Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Youth who are obese are highly likely to develop serious health problems; these include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In response this epidemic there has been a recent national health movement to combat childhood obesity. Public programs and campaigns such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative and The California Endowment’s “Health Happens in Schools” promote healthy lifestyles, policy and prevention. Schools, non-profits, community health centers, and other organizations nationally, and locally doing work to fight childhood obesity all stress the importance healthy eating. For many Americans, especially those living in low-income communities where cheap fast food and liquor stores are plentiful, but access to fresh produce is scarce, eating healthy is not an easy feat.
Food and beverages that are the most unhealthy and high in fat and sugar tend to be the inexpensive and most accessible. Fresh, healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts are often more expensive and harder to find in neighborhoods without large grocery stores. At Raley’s Supermarket you can by three 2-liter bottles (67 oz) of soda for $4 while one 15.2 ounce Naked All Natural Fruit Drink is $3.49. A family size bag of Lays Chips cost $4.49; Doritos are $3.99, while a container of Emerald Natural Almonds is a whopping $7.99.
The reason products that contain soybean, corn and sugary corn syrup additives, such as soda, cookies, and chips are so cheap and readily available is because of government farm subsidies.
The Federal Government spends more than $1.28 billion annually to subsidize corn and soybeans crops that are used to make junk food. Farm subsidies are payments the federal government makes to farmers to supplement their income and increase production The Environmental Working Group reports that in the year 2009, $15.4 billion in government subsidies were given to the growers of corn, cotton, rice, wheat, and soybean crops. While in the same year the government only gave $825 million to support fruit, vegetable, and organic crops.
Government farm subsidies contribute to childhood obesity by making unhealthy high calorie food, snacks, and drinks in cheap mass quantities that can be found on every corner in liquor stores, fast food restaurants, and vending machines. However, people are coming together to battle the effects of farm-subsidized obesity by organizing to bring health to their communities. Local Sacramento non-profits Ubuntu Green and Fresh Producers are fighting back by empowering youth and community members to grow their own fresh healthy food. Ubuntu Green teaches residents of South Sacramento how to make their own home garden, and Fresh Producers has started school gardens throughout the Sacramento City Unified School District.
For more information about local Sacramento non-profits that are promoting healthy options please check out the links below.