Report Says Subsidies for Junk Food Costs Rhode Islanders Millions
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Rhode Island taxpayers spend millions each year subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, according to a report released last month by the Rhode Island Public Interest Research Group (RIPIRG).
The national report, titled Apples to Twinkies 2012, analyzes the amount spent nationwide on federal subsidies for commodity crops, finding that the tab for each taxpayer amounts would be enough to afford 21 Twinkies every year while the subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy one half of an apple per taxpayer.
According to the report, Rhode Island residents’ share of the expense for junk food subsidies is about $3,612,557 each year on average, compared with just $126,450 in subsidies for apples.
Between 1995 and 2011, the report found that Americans spent over $277 billion in agricultural subsidies. The payments were highly concentrated, with 75 percent of the subsidies going to 3.8 percent of farmers. During that time span, $18.2 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives - corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils (better known as hydrogenated vegetable oils).
At $7.58 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 21 Twinkies, according to the report.
By comparison, taxpayers spent only $637 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 27 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than half of one apple.
RIPIRG’s report comes as childhood obesity rates have resident significantly in recent years. Statistics suggest that one-in-five children between the ages of 6 and 11 are now obese.
In Rhode Island, more than 30 percent of children entering kindergarten are overweight or obese. Approximately 35 percent of Rhode Island’s low-income children between the ages of two to five are overweight or obese – higher than the national average of 32 percent.
Still, the Ocean State has taken steps to improve its obesity rates among children and received national recognition last spring for doing so.
The state was honored for carrying out exceptional work to promote and implement the goals of Let’s Move! Child Care, an initiative created by First Lady Michelle Obama. Rhode Island earned recognition for using creative strategies, engaging families in obesity prevention efforts, and overcoming challenges to get children moving and encourage healthy eating in the early care and education setting.
“This award is a great example of the significant strides that can be made when our state’s leaders work together toward a common goal,” Governor Chafee said at the time. “This distinction speaks to the power of collaboration in building a stronger Rhode Island, beginning with the health and wellness of our youngest citizens and their families.”
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