Childhood Obesity = Big Bucks, Part 3

Kohl's Party

Childhood Obesity News has been looking at some of the ways in which individuals and businesses and megacorporations profit from the obesity epidemic — gyms, diet meal manufacturers, medical practitioners with less-than-pristine ethics, programs that don’t ultimately work in any sustainable way, and so forth. But let’s not forget the OG (original gangsta) profiteers, the companies that pump out the stuff that’s making everybody so fat. Is this headline a classic, or what?

Soda Industry Cashes In on Govt. Food Assistance Programs to Tune of $4 Billion a Year

The story is by Stan Cox, and the underlying issues have been known to start bar fights and terminate longstanding friendships.

Quite a while back, the program formerly known as “food stamps” was rechristened the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but some people don’t like it any better than they did under the old name. With the economy down and the unemployment up, they will probably have to endure that segment of the national budget for a while longer. Cox sets forth the crux of the matter:

Advocates for limiting the range of products that benefits can buy have generally focused their efforts on carbonated drinks… [T]he manufacturers rake in an estimated $4 billion per year from SNAP sales alone.

Proposals for deploying food assistance as a tool to influence consumers’ buying decisions are deeply controversial. And the debate over whether or not to drop nutrition-free items from the nation’s biggest nutrition program cuts across the political spectrum in often unpredictable ways.

So much evidence has piled up against SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) that anyone who defends them could justifiably be called delusional. At the other end of the spectrum, some people seem to think soda pop was invented by demons in the infernal realms. Yet even among those who shun it with a mighty disdain, not all believe that SNAP should refuse to pay for it. What ever happened to individual choice? Or freedom? Isn’t that what America is all about?

And what a notion, using public money to subsidize the soda pop habits of millions of children (and adults). Any trained rhetorician from ancient Greece or Rome would weep at the illogic. Does it make any sense to have one agency over here handing out free tickets for the SSB ride, and another agency over there urging people to jump off the obesity train, and another one paying enormous sums to repair the damage done by the numerous co-morbidities that obesity entails? The number-crunchers who extrapolate the medical cost of obesity, predicting what it will be in 10 years or 25 years, are talking about more money than exists in the known universe.

For some people, it’s a no-brainer. Clients of government-funded (which means taxpayer-funded) nutrition programs oughtn’t to buy junk food/drinks. Period. The detractors of soda stand on precedent. Both the WIC program (for women and babies) and the National School Lunch Program are committed to offering only healthful foods.

And get this. When legislation time comes around, as if Pepsi, Coke, et al. were not big enough and rich enough to take care of themselves and fight their own battles, all their mega-corporate friends show up for the rumble. The list of miscreants that Cox compiled is amazing, and begins with the Corn Refiners of America (you know, high fructose corn syrup, aka “the devil’s candy,” one of the main soda pop ingredients).

Other institutions that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the soft drink makers are the Florida Petroleum Marketers (huh?), the Snack Food Association, the Convenience Store Association, and even the Frozen Potato Products Institute. To the list of those who profit from childhood obesity, add lawyers.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Soda Industry Cashes In on Govt. Food Assistance Programs to Tune of $4 Billion a Year,” AlterNet.org, 05/07/13
Image by Rob “Berto” Bennett.

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