Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the powerful Senate Agriculture Committee, admitted in an interview with CNN today that America does not have enough fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone to follow the time honored dietary dictum of five servings daily.
He was asked about the connection between the Farm Bill and the rise of obesity in the U. S. He acknowledged that there was a direct connection between farm legislation and the growth of American waistlines.
Consider these facts.
Most fruits and vegetables are considered "specialty foods" by Congress. As a result, they are not subsidized like corn, for example. Subsidies mean production. Their absence leads to underproduction in the face of growing need.
Scarcity drives prices up. Result: the well-to-do in this country eat a more healthy diet than the poor.
Add to this the fact that low-income communities, especially in our inner cities, don't enjoy easy access to good supermarkets and you have the public health reality fairly well in view.
I'd suggest a healthy increase in the Food Stamp program for the working poor. In addition, Congress should find ways to incentivize the production of increasing amounts of fruits and vegetables and the development of good retail markets among the urban poor. These three steps along would begin to take a healthy bite out of obesity and all of the public health issues associated with it. The savings to the American tax payer in health care costs alone would be enormous.
We need to wake up to the fact that most things aren't the way they are today by accident.