Like many Americans, I am a fatty. I don’t mean that I am just a little overweight, I am straight out obese and I am not really happy about it. It is not my intention to use this blog to tell the story of how I got so fat, but, it is safe to say that it was a direct result of eating too much, eating the wrong foods, and not living an active enough lifestyle. During the past few months, I have made some pretty major changes to my life in order to address my weight, accepting that in order to be healthier; I have to significantly change my lifestyle. However, as I have embarked on this latest improvement, I have became keenly aware of the high cost of eating healthy food.
I realize that the discussion of food is one that is very hard for people. Since her husband was elected President in 2008, Michelle Obama has tried hard to raise awareness of childhood obesity and encourage our public school systems to provide healthy meals and to teach better eating habits. These efforts have often been met by people complaining about how their 240lbs 15 year old is “starving” if he can only have an 800 calorie lunch. However, as we have seen a 40% drop in childhood obesity rates in the past decade; I would say her efforts are working.
For us adults, we are not doing so well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009–2010, around 70% of all Americans were overweight, and 35.5% of American men and 35.8 of women were obese.
In order to begin to address this, we have to accept the fact that the United States has very cheap food. We spend around 9% of our disposable income on food. This is down significantly from the 1960’s, when more than 17% was spent on food. However, part of the reason our food is so cheap is because it is made from unhealthy ingredients. According to a Harvard University Study, eating a healthy versus an unhealthy diet will cost a family of four an additional $2,172 per year. My unofficial opinion is that living in North Dakota with long winters and short growing seasons, that number is significantly higher for me.
Some will say that in order to address this issue, we need to make food more expensive. Some suggest taxing bad foods much like we do tobacco. I think that is a mistake. We do need to look at how we subsidize unhealthy foods at the expense of healthier, locally grown foods; however, the key of our efforts should be to make healthier foods cheaper and more accessible.
Here in my hometown of Minot, we have a farmers market during the summer months. The markets are open a few days a week, and often sell out a majority of their product very quickly. This tells you that there is a market for locally grown product, however, at this point; the supply of that product is very limited. More efforts to support local growers who grow alternative crops would help to meet this demand. Hopefully, with more local supplies, the costs of the products would also come down.
Even if you are lucky enough not to be overweight or obese, this issue should matter to you because you are paying for it. I know many Republicans like to pretend that Healthcare is only expensive because of Obamacare, as our food has became cheaper and less healthy, our healthcare costs have skyrocketed. If we were able to curb adult obesity rates, like we have children’s obesity rates, our health care costs would drop significantly.