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John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block,

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

Obesity and Hunger

May 17, 2012

Just this week on Tuesday, May 15, we celebrated the establishment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation 150 years ago. It has been a very successful 150 years. Our citizens enjoy the most reasonably priced, safest, and best tasting food in the world. We need to continue to serve up that kind of abundance as we look to the future.
There is one undesirable side effect of cheap, delicious food – obesity. I have visited countries all over the world and you won’t find any obesity problem in the poor countries. Food there is too expensive.
We have a paradox here in the U.S. that defies any solution – obesity on one hand and hunger on the other. However, according to an op ed in the New York Times newspaper, obesity is a far more serious problem. In New York City schools, 40 percent of the children are overweight while only 2 percent aren’t getting enough food.
This country is very generous in making food available. All of the New York schools have a cafeteria where the children can get breakfast if they don’t get any at home. Of course, we know all the schools serve lunch. Until recently, the schools in New York were also serving breakfast in the classroom (BIC Program). Add to all of that the fact that now we have 46 million people on food stamps. I would suggest that we have gone too far. The abundance of free, delicious food is contributing to our obesity problem.
I confess that I don’t have an acceptable solution. I have suggested in the past that the schools could weigh the kids. If they are overweight, send them to the salad bar. No biscuits and gravy for them. That doesn’t get very much support.
There is no easy answer. We don’t want to be a poor country that is "food insecure" but with skinny citizens. At the same time, if we keep eating our delicious food and watching television, we’re going to get fat.
Maybe you have some answers.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to


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COMMENTS (1 Comments)

Ric Ohge - Belmond, IA
Then here's the Governments little contribution-since hard science appears to not be too popular a read: As a the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s “Apples to Twinkies” report shows, your taxpayer dollars subsidize junk food and artificially deflate the cost of that junk food so that it undersells everything else. “Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives—corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils.” At the same time, PIRG points out that “taxpayers spent only $262 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables.” To put those numbers into real-world terms, “if these agricultural subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America’s 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year — enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece.”​
1:43 PM May 17th

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