The above chart is a comparison of what it costs to pay for a family of 4 at McDonald’s or at home 2 different ways. Not only are the monetary costs cheaper to cook something healthy yourself, but also the health costs are way cheaper by forgoing Mickey D’s.

In last Sunday’s NY Times Review Mark Bittman made this very argument: that junk is not really cheaper. Some key points I picked out are:

  • “there are five fast-food restaurants for every supermarket in the United States; in recent decades the adjusted for inflation price of fresh produce has increased by 40 percent while the price of soda and processed food has decreased by as much as 30 percent; and nearly inconceivable resources go into encouraging consumption in restaurants: fast-food companies spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009.”
  • “The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook.” In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.”
  • “A 2009 study by the Scripps Research Institute indicates that overconsumption of fast food “triggers addiction-like neuroaddictive responses” in the brain, making it harder to trigger the release of dopamine.”
  • “The smart campaign is not to get McDonald’s to serve better food but to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life.”

The consequences of these things are that, according to a new consumer report, one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese. And, also according to that same report, we can thank our very own Federal government for that one: “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 (which are frequently processed further into hydrogenated vegetable oils).”

But if we’re subsidizing high fructose corn syrup with astronomical numbers like that, well we must have subsidized actual fruits and vegetables through the roof, right?

WRONG: “Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products receive very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $262 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables.”

So putting that into perspective: “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.”

Something needs to change desperately and it starts by educating children in schools and at home that being healthy can be cheaper than settling for fast, empty calories. Taking the time to cook one or two more meals at home a week can do vast amounts for our health and our children’s future as hopefully one day overcoming these morbidly obese numbers. Because, obviously our government would like us to just eat Twinkies over apples…

To start, you can take the $5 Challenge from Slow Food coming up on October 24th (my birthday and Food Day).

Advertisements