Practical Issues > Health - Index > Vegan Index
Shocking Graphic Reveals Why a Big Mac Costs Less Than a Salad
March 11, 2010
We’ve got a lot of problems when it comes to our food system, but one of them was clearly articulated with a simple graphic. How do food subsidies affect what we’re eating? Check this out:.
Interesting analysis, but it’s missing the heart of the matter, which PCRM lays out on their own website — the legislation which governs all these subsidies is the controversial farm bill. “The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals,” PCRM writes. “By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products–the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies.”
What would our society look like if fruit and vegetable products received more of the cut? I’m reminded of the scene from the Oscar-nominated film Food Inc., where a lower-income family grapples with the issue of spending what little money they have on fast food burgers because it is cheaper and more filling than buying fresh vegetables but knowing that they’ll end up likely spending even more down the line in health costs. That’s a decision that no family should have to make.
Clearly our prices for food are skewed. Interestingly, the Times has another graphic about how food prices have changed over the last 30 years, and shockingly it’s fresh fruits and veggies that seem to be getting much more expensive, while most everything else seems to be going down or holding relatively steady.
David Leonhardt, who put together the chart on food pricing says most unhealthy foods have gotten cheaper. Since 1978, soda has gotten 33 percent cheaper but fruits and veggies are over 40 percent more expensive. As an example he says:
And how have these pricing difference played out in terms of human health? Well, obesity may be one place. Leonhardt writes:
Of course there are many factors to obesity, but surely tipping the scales in favor of some of the less healthy ones, doesn’t help. This same scenario is playing out in our schools across the country, too. In a recent story Jill Richardson did for AlterNet about the dismal state of our school lunch program, she writes that we’re basically giving kids the very things we say they shouldn’t be eating:
We’re already facing an diabetes epidemic where one in three people
born after 1980 will get early-onset diabetes and one in two from
minority communities. We need changes to our food system, big time, and
right away. One of the best places to start is by flipping this food
pyramid of subsidies on its head.