As a New Yorker, I have heard tons of outcry over Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial public-health policies during his tenure. First came the ban on smoking cigarettes in indoor places and NYC Parks (recently expanded to include e-cigs, as well), which was lauded almost universally, the exception being regular smokers. He also required restaurants and food vendors to post sanitary inspection grades in their windows and calorie counts on their menus. However, many people refer to Bloomberg as “that guy who tried to ban Big Gulps,” a reference to his ban on the sale of soft drink containers bigger than 32 ounces. Personally, I support all of Bloomberg’s food-health initiatives. I believe that the US government should emulate his prioritization of public health over the public’s choice to buy unhealthy foods, a principle that they currently do not act on.
The US is the second fattest country in the world, finishing only behind our neighbor to the south, Mexico. Organic food chains have flourished in the past decade, but are only available to the US demographic that can afford to care about the food they purchase and consume. Whole Foods is the perfect example of a company whose products are healthy and delicious, but are certainly on the pricey end of the spectrum. This can be directly attributed to the US government’s interest in favoring industrial food production above organically grown food. Industrial animal farms, whose poor treatment of animals and damaging environmental practices are well documented, are currently receiving subsidies from the US government (incentivized animal feed prices, etc.) This practice is also carried out for “junk food” products, which are mostly comprised of soybeans and corn; direct subsidies, coupled with the ability to purchase “junk food” products with food stamps, lead to a booming market for unhealthy food.
Companies such as Whole Foods demand higher prices for their farm-grown food items due to the farmer’s steep cost to produce them. Farms dedicated to humane treatment of animals and safe food-growing practices (limited-zero pesticide use on crops) produce lesser amounts of product than their industrial counterparts. For this reason, the government actually disincentivizes farms geared towards producing healthier foods.
As it stands, the US government’s partiality towards industrial farms and mass producers of soybean, corn, and wheat is creating a system whereby healthy food products are set at higher prices, thus lowering their availability towards the US population. This dynamic is not conducive to a healthy society. The US government must start to view food less as a commodity and more as a means of creating a healthier population.