Date: January - March, 2006, California Agriculture journal
Market incentives could promote better nutrition among food stamp recipients
At a time when obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases are epidemic, the U.S. government should retool subsidy programs to encourage healthy diets, says policy expert Josh Miner in the January-March 2006 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture research journal.
In a peer-reviewed research perspective, Miner proposes policy changes for two agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture — the Food Stamp Program and the Farm Services Agency. The former provides money for food without promoting healthy diets, Miner says, while the latter promotes unhealthy diets without reducing the cost of food.
“Does it really make sense to support the production of products such as high-fructose corn syrup by giving corn growers direct subsidy payments, and to support the purchase of products like Coca-Cola by giving food stamp recipients benefits but no incentives to spend extra for nutrients instead of maximize calories?” Miner writes.
In a carefully researched article, Miner notes that obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease disproportionately affect low-income consumers. Yet food assistance programs like food stamps do little to promote the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole-grain products, while U.S. commodity payments encourage the consumption of high-calorie, unhealthy, processed foods.
“Why not instead invest in the health and good dietary habits of low-income Americans, while providing marketplace support for producers of health-promoting food products?” writes Miner, former UC Cooperative Extension analyst and current policy fellow in the W.K. Kellogg Food and Society Program.
Miner lays out a proposal to reduce payments for large-scale commodities such as corn, soybeans and rice, and replace them with a compensation system for retailers who sell fruits, vegetables and other nutritious products to low-income consumers at reduced prices. “By linking incentives directly to products that have health benefits, there is a high likelihood that these redirected subsidies would result in additional future cost savings, in the form of improved health, increased productivity, and other economic and social benefits,” Miner writes.
To contact Miner, call (608) 782-0825 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.