FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Michelle Obama’s multi-billion-dollar campaign to revolutionize the inner city diet by bringing healthier foods to low-income neighborhoods is failing miserably, according to a new study, yet American taxpayers are being forced to continue funding the costly initiative.
The goal is to eliminate “food deserts,” common in poor, minority communities where fresh, healthy food is tough to find or often unavailable. This has created a national epidemic of obesity, according the Obama administration, and the government has a duty to intervene. As part of a $4.5 billion law (Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) pushed through by the First Lady the government commits hundreds of millions of dollars annually to bring whole foods—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy—to underserved neighborhoods nationwide.
Among the areas that have received a chunk of money is Philadelphia, where so-called food deserts were once rampant. Besides getting millions from Michelle Obama’s measure, the area has received generous grants from a $15 billion fund tied to her husband’s disastrous healthcare law as well as “stimulus” cash to combat obesity, according to a news report. The money has helped build new markets and added healthy food options to convenience stores in the city’s low-income neighborhoods.
So, has the pricey effort to eradicate food deserts paid off? Are the residents of these underserved areas any healthier after getting their government-funded fruits and veggies? The answer to both questions is a resounding no. After six months, there was no significant improvement in the body-mass index of local residents or in their consumption of fruits and vegetables, according to a new academic study. Researchers considered more than 1,000 Philadelphia residents who lived in areas once considered food deserts.
The researchers concluded that the new neighborhood grocery stores increased awareness of food access, but didn’t alter dietary habits or obesity. “We found that the intervention moderately improved residents’ perception of food accessibility,” the researchers write. “However, it did not lead to changes in reported fruit and vegetable intake or body mass index.” Therefore, the introduction of healthier cuisine—compliments of Uncle Sam—in food deserts is not enough to put a dent on obesity rates. Don’t expect the Obama administration to stop pouring money on this experiment, however.
In the last few years the administration has dedicated huge sums to eradicate food deserts. This includes $75 million to study ways of better recognizing the nutritional needs of low-income communities and more than $100 million in Obamacare grants to “reduce health disparities” between minorities and whites by, among other things, eliminating food deserts. The administration even created a special internet mapping tool (Food Desert Locator) that identifies areas with “limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.
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