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"Believe it or not, Twinkies have an expiration date. Some day very soon, Life's little Twinkie gauge is gonna go... empty."
September 23, 2011 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies. [LATIMES] A new report released this week has found that, among the billions of dollars spent each year in federal subsidies for commodity crops, a steady flow of these taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food. The report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” by CALPIRG and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, studies the interesting question of whether the nation's problem with obesity is fueled by farm subsidies.
posted by Fizz (38 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies.

Its still America, right? Makes sense. Actually I bet those proportions make sense too when you compare them to how much a household spends on junk food vs. apples.

"Americans spend $65 of junk food for every dollar of apples they buy".

But seeing how these are federal subsidies...the gov't should do a better job of promoting apples and less of a job promoting those bold-flavored doreets.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:00 AM on September 23, 2011


I can solve America's problem with just a three simple words: Apple Flavoured Doritos!
posted by Fizz at 6:01 AM on September 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by acb at 6:02 AM on September 23, 2011


I can solve America's problem with just a three simple words: Apple Flavoured Doritos!

Even better: apple chips covered in Dorito dust!
posted by rtha at 6:12 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If apples were as cheap as corn is now, wouldn't junk food manufacturers just process apples to get sugar the same way they do with corn? This is basically saying "US taxpayers spend much more in subsidies to crops that are heavily subsidized than ones that aren't."
posted by burnmp3s at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


Apple Flavoured Doritos!

Nah, more like Chipotle Apple 'N Carmel "flavored" Doritos. Ingredients: Whole corn, Vegetable Oil, Sunflower, Conola, Corn and/or Soybean Oil, Maltodextrin (Made from Corn) and less than 2% of the Following: Wheat Flour, Salt, Corn Flour, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Dextrose, Lactose, Spices, Artificial Color (including Yellow 5, Red 40, Red 6) Lactic Acid, Sugar, Sodium Casenite, Disodium inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate. Contains No Actual Fruit.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:23 AM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


The report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” by CALPIRG and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, studies the interesting question of whether the nation's problem with obesity is fueled by farm subsidies.

This was actually one of the things posited by the book Omnivore's Dilemma, if memory serves. A book club I was in briefly read this a couple years ago, and discussed it -- and every single one of us remembered that sudden shift in the early 1980's, at about the time that sodas started using HFCS instead of sugar, when suddenly bottles of soda were way cheaper and you could suddenly get two-liter bottles for cheaper than the old one-liter bottles were, and the 8-oz bottles of Coke started disappearing from shops only to be replaced by 24-oz bottles. Sure, the 24-oz bottles all say that the "suggested servings per container" is 3, but do you know a single person who drinks only a third of those bottles and then saves the rest for later?

And that's just soda. The corn subsidies ran smack into both the drive to "get a deal" and the drive to "clean your plate," and food manufacturers were able to offer us more food for cheaper - and more fool us, we ate it all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


... Chipotle Apple 'N Carmel "flavored" Doritos ...

Man, I'd eat the hell out of those Doritos. So delicious, and healthy!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:26 AM on September 23, 2011


So, all of the junk food around, compared to...

This isn't really an apples-to-apples comparison, is it?
posted by gracedissolved at 6:29 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Irritating - (annoying, troublesome, provoking)
posted by zamboni at 6:32 AM on September 23, 2011


Am I reading it right that the subsidy per year per taxpayer is $7? That seems insignificant.
posted by smackfu at 6:32 AM on September 23, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: Sure, the 24-oz bottles all say that the "suggested servings per container" is 3, but do you know a single person who drinks only a third of those bottles and then saves the rest for later? ...and more fool us, we ate it all.

Good point. There was no reason to race to the bottom of the bottle: with all those sugars & chemicals, the extra left-over portions could last for years!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on September 23, 2011


Speaking of which,
NYC's Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed that NYC's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) ban the use of food stamps to buy soda and other sugar sweetened beverages.

Organizations that advocate for the poor considered this an insultingly paternalistic and patronizing proposal. They partnered with Pepsi and other large corporations to resist the proposal. Strange bedfellows, I thought.

The USDA shot down the proposal.

here's some background / sum-up of the issue.
posted by entropone at 6:33 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If apples were as cheap as corn is now, wouldn't junk food manufacturers just process apples to get sugar the same way they do with corn? This is basically saying "US taxpayers spend much more in subsidies to crops that are heavily subsidized than ones that aren't."

Exactly right... maybe we could shift the subsidies into the hands of consumers in the form of whole vegetable or fruit food stamps, which would still get money into the hands of growers but wouldn't encourage adding pounds of apple sugar to every product in the aisles of the supermarket.

Now I just need a few hundred million dollars to lobby for it...
posted by Huck500 at 6:33 AM on September 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is eating a lot of GMO, industrial fertilized Monsanto apples much better than corn dust chips?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:45 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


In terms of total environmental impact? Dunno. For your personal health? Yes, in every measurable way.
posted by Vetinari at 6:51 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just read this: Detroit doubles foodstamps at farmers markets, which encourages them to set up in the poorer 'food desert' areas, and ultimately puts money right into farmer's pockets and good food in the kitchens of people on foodstamps. Now there's a plan I can't possibly see a downside of, but then I'm not an international snackfood production conglomerate.

I've long been an advocate of reducing farm subsidies and increasing food stamps; it puts money into the system in a purely capitalistic way because they're only used in actual consumer transactions and not plowing under crops or paying for overqualified machinery, plus it also benefits the supermarkets (read: a largish employer in those areas) in poorer areas, too.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:52 AM on September 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


maybe we could shift the subsidies into the hands of consumers in the form of whole vegetable or fruit food stamps

Yes, if we must have subsidies they should be for whole fruits and vegetables at the point of sale rather than at the farm level. The result would be cheaper whole fruits and vegetables, more expensive processed foods, and if the subsidy were structured correctly then farmers wouldn't see a difference in income, although they would have to change what they grow.

Of course, I would also favor ending all agricultural subsidies except perhaps for small, owner-operated farms.

Is eating a lot of GMO, industrial fertilized Monsanto apples

Monsanto doesn't make apples. They are propagated by cloning, so it's not really its area of expertise. Also, there aren't any GMO apples on the market (yet, at least). I get what you're saying, but apples aren't a good comparison.
posted by jedicus at 6:53 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


NYC's Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed that NYC's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) ban the use of food stamps to buy soda and other sugar sweetened beverages.

You've reminded me of one good thing I've seen in New York City recently -- several of the farmers' markets throughout the city are equipped to accept WIC checks and food stamps. And more and more of those markets are cropping up, or are expanding their "seasons" (some of them only used to be seasonal, but are expanding to be year-round affairs).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2011


NYC's Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed that NYC's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) ban the use of food stamps to buy soda and other sugar sweetened beverages

On the other hand, Taco Bell and KFC are lobbying for the right to take food stamps.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2011


Good point. There was no reason to race to the bottom of the bottle: with all those sugars & chemicals, the extra left-over portions could last for years!

Only as a chemically sludge of flat HFCS water. Once the fizz is gone there's nothing left.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:08 AM on September 23, 2011


God dammit we're the Bay Area. We're the most concentrated form of progressive, pretentious smugness in the god damn world. This should be easy for us to solve!

For instance we could make food stamps count double at Farmer's Markets so that we can all be out there with our tote bags at 8am on a Sunday morning in a closed off Main Street waiting 45 minutes just to get an organic fairtrade coffee from the local coffee house.
posted by Talez at 7:18 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]




Monsanto doesn't make apples. They are propagated by cloning, so it's not really its area of expertise.

Well that sounds a lot more like making them than those lazy bastards who just stand around and wait for them to grow.
posted by biffa at 7:42 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I haven't eaten a single apple since I found out they were cloned - what if they are dangerous and try to take over the world?!

actually, I really like the clones of heritage apples - once I had an taste of an apple from a clone of a tree that grew first in 1600: the apple was tiny and drier than most modern ones, but with a really intense, rich flavour.
posted by jb at 8:39 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't eaten a single apple since I found out they were cloned - what if they are dangerous and try to take over the world?!

I'm assuming you're joking, but this is how all named varieties of many types of fruit trees are propagated.You can't grow a Santa Rosa plum from a Santa Rosa plum seed, you have to graft Santa Rosa plum scions to a rootstock. Otherwise, you get an offspring with different characteristics than the original plum.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:45 AM on September 23, 2011


You've reminded me of one good thing I've seen in New York City recently

We also have legal fruit carts for the last couple years due the the Green Cart Bill. I walk past one guy about 5 times a day and he aways yells that he is selling 5 cartons of blueberries for $2 or something ridiculous. Maybe I should buy some.

For instance we could make food stamps count double at Farmer's Markets

You guys gotta get on the stick, places like Michigan are beating you to it.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2011


Why do they always have to compare apples to things?
posted by jabberjaw at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the entire SF Bay area subsidizes junk food on the scale of 1/10th of Larry Ellison's sailboat racing budget?

$2,000,000 is nothing.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:00 AM on September 23, 2011


I'm distrustful of this apple math.
posted by hypersloth at 11:09 AM on September 23, 2011


Why do they always have to compare apples to things?

Because guns and butter gets old really fast.
posted by Fizz at 11:14 AM on September 23, 2011


"a steady flow of these taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food."

HFCS is not a food additive, it's food.

I'm just thinking about all the corn, AKA maize, that's been bred over decades and centuries by men to produce ten or twenty times their original size and loaded with sugars. Corn that we feed to animals we eat, corn we eat, corn we make into rivers of syrup we stick our heads into and gulp down. Corn we ferment into fuel for our cars so we can go to harvest festivals and eat corn-battered hotdogs made from corn-fed animals and deep fried in corn oil. Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling bad about it.

All flesh is grass.
posted by longsleeves at 11:25 AM on September 23, 2011


One word for you, Longsleeves:

"Monoculture."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2011


I'm assuming you're joking, but this is how all named varieties of many types of fruit trees are propagated

I was joking - I used to sell apples for a heritage orchard. :)

That said, my husband just pointed out that - as grafts - apples are more like Frankenstein's monster.
posted by jb at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2011


every single one of us remembered that sudden shift in the early 1980's, at about the time that sodas started using HFCS instead of sugar, when suddenly bottles of soda were way cheaper

Michael Pollan has been pushing this point for a while, too, tracing the policy to Earl Butz, Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture -- who exhorted farmers, amid a Midwest drought and a huge grain sale to the USSR, to plant "fence row to fence row". When both countries' production improved, there was all this excess corn capacity....
posted by dhartung at 12:33 PM on September 23, 2011


Stop handing out billions of dollars of US taxpayers' money to agribusiness, full stop. The whole mess is a function of regulatory capture, with wealthy land-owning megacorps raiding the pockets of people who can't afford it to make them crappier and more dangerous food.
posted by rodgerd at 12:42 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I worked for US PIRG for a short while about 25 years ago. I am deeply skeptical of anything that organization produces. Shoddy research designed to grab headlines and raise money.
posted by humanfont at 4:48 PM on September 23, 2011


We own a piece of the moonpie consortium and the ju-ju bee concession.
posted by clavdivs at 12:18 AM on September 24, 2011


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