JUNE 13, 2012
The Obama Administration keeps funding questionable programs to combat obesity by bringing fresh produce to poor areas, even as health experts concede the efforts are wasted—right along with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Consider this south Florida newspaper article focusing on how local nonprofits are spending federal money to bring fresh produce to poor areas to combat obesity. One county alone, Miami-Dade, got nearly $15 million from the feds and a chunk of it was used to bring fresh produce to areas considered “food deserts,” or low-income neighborhoods that lack markets with fresh produce found in more affluent areas.
The allocation is part of a $370 million stimulus-funded program to fight obesity in low-income neighborhoods. It’s also part of a much larger initiative, Michelle Obama’s outrageous $4.5 billion law to revolutionize the inner-city diet by providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in low-income neighborhoods. As part of this effort the U.S. government spent $830 million to study obesity in 2011 and justify the creation of restrictive policies to control what Americans eat.
But the focus of the administration’s costly anti-obesity campaign has remained to tackle the “epidemic” in low-income neighborhoods by claiming that the poor are more likely to be obese because they have no access to healthy foods. This theory is wrong, according to experts quoted in the Florida newspaper article. “The idea of food deserts has nothing to do with obesity,” according to one researcher who authored a study that’s backed up by a series of others.
The study involved 13,000 children and found no correlation between kids’ obesity and access to fresh produce. In fact, the best predictor was the parents’ weight. This brings to mind that old cliché about the fruit not falling far from the tree. “You’re just not going to change behavior by offering more vegetables,” the expert, a highly regarded researcher, assures.
A separate study, published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found the same thing. It followed more than 5,000 people over 15 years and determined that greater supermarket availability had no correlation with how frequently people ate fruits and vegetables. This hasn’t stopped local officials from citing bogus statistics to obtain federal funds to combat “food deserts.” A top health official in Miami-Dade County wrote in a report that “research shows that better access to affordable, nutritious food is associated with healthier eating habits.”
Of interesting note is that the area featured in the news story isn’t even considered a food desert because it has a large, recently remodeled grocery store with a big produce department. The store, part of a major national chain, is located just 13 blocks from the taxpayer-funded farmer’s market in a crime-infested area of mostly black residents known as Liberty City.
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