** Kudos to the Iowa state legislature for standing up to the Food Snobs who are showing exactly how little they know about food and nutrition in this county. This public lack of understanding by those who report on government issues shows exactly why the Federal government needs to be out of the public assistance game. From student loan debt to food stamps, the only goal here is to spend money. Its time every state puts nutrition first.
To put it short and sweet, NO ONE in America should ever go to bed hungry and yet, as the holidays approach, the media sends out emotion laced storie stating that food is scarce in this country and that something needs to be done about it. Is that the truth or is it a subtle method of persuasion designed to lower residents expectations while increasing tolerance of government inefficiency. Read below and make up your own mind.
America, The World's Bread Basket
According to Investopedia, the US is one of the four largest food producing countries in the World. Ironically though, how that food is distributed changes it from a necessity of life to an economic growth tool. Sadly, malnutrition and hunger are very much woven into American politics as both parties use food as a weapon against its own people. Not surprisingly, Americans pay high prices and get little food value for their money as a result.
Simply put, government agriculture and trade policies are not designed to FEED people but to FEED the economy and bargain for loyalty around the globe.
Yes America, federal policy laid out by the Food and Drug Administration, US Departments of Agriculture and Commerce and other regulatory agencies choose to foster hunger and poor health in its general population. They do this by taking a hands-off approach with corporate interests such as Nestle, General Mills, PepsiCo, and many others.
Why do both Republicans and Democrats support food production methods which put people at risk for illness and death? Because it is good for Wall Street and Wall Street is everything in today's global economy.
Food Labeling Shows Declining Food Value
To get a better idea of where Congress puts its priorities, all it takes is a look at food labeling. So complicated to understand, the numbers on a label tell the story. One does not need to be a registered dietitian to understand low numbers and lots of zeros translate into food that has little quality. In today's market, it would take 10 snack bags of potato chips and you still would not get the sodium and potassium which are needed for good hydration.
Interestingly, the FDA allows countless products with little or no food value to be purchased with food assistance dollars. One specific example is alternative milk products. California's almond milk is an acceptable food source even though a serving of this high priced milk look-alike is the equivalent of eating three almonds and drinking a glass of salt and vitamin infused water.
Is that worth 10% more than whole milk with 5 times the calories, 8 times the protein and naturally sourced vitamins and minerals? Economically, sure it is. In terms of feeding the poor, its a scam on every level.
What does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Do?
At this point in time, no one is really sure. What they are supposed to do is ensure safe food products and medicines be delivered throughout the country. Unfortunately, they seem to be more concerned with punishment after the fact than preventing food safety issues as the baby formula, pet food and drug shortages continue to cause problems for many. Recently, Clorox recalled a cleaner which had been shipped and sold over a year ago. What good does it do to recall a product a year after it has been shipped and sold?
Secondarily, there appears to be no FDA food policy that stops tax dollars from being redirected to companies through products which are colored and flavored water or calories that provide few of the micro nutrients that improve general health, strengthen muscles, or regulate metabolism. The same, generally, holds true for medications even when their proven efficacy is less than 50% and their list of side effects is dangerously long.
As an instrument of Republican and Democratic administrations, the FDA and USDA willing allow low food value products to flood the market which reduces the buying power of individuals. Claiming to be treating those who live in poverty fairly,funds can be used to buy popular foods even when high quality food products are cheaper.
Supply Chain Problems? Not likely.
There is an old saying in business--Say it Enough. They'll Believe It. The truth is that food companies have been shorting the American public on nutrition for decades. Worse, they are now using the "Supply Chain" myth to alter recipes, reduce the nutritional content of their products and increase profits. This practice has increased with deregulation and has made commercial foods more susceptible to contaminated and less nutritious overall.
Add the sound of celebrities and talk show hosts proclaiming that there is a food shortage in this country and it isn't hard to realize they help make misinformation appear as truth.
Where does the REAL food go?
Naively, Americas want to believe in farm to table marketing that supports local agriculture. Commercial agriculture is very different. Actual food distribution in this country is a complicated system of tiers (see below) with the local grocery store being at or near the bottom Politicians will not mention that they trade food products as if they were gold or silver. While they ship food produced here to other countries, they import food that ends up on our tables. Economics is everything, after all.
- Government Interests: It should be no surprise that government takes its cut at or near the top. Active and reserve military bases, federal prisons and detention centers and, of course, the exports that are part of the every day wheeling and dealing called "foreign policy" take large quantities of food out of circulation without it ever entering a store. With little packaging, large recurring orders and quick payment, it is good business to supply these operations first. Unfortunately, it is also susceptible to waste and mismanagement due to strict food safety guidelines which have unused food thrown away. The FDA is currently recalling record amounts of food of all kinds.
- Non-Food Products: From cosmetics and vitamin supplements to ethanol and cleaning products. Food is used for many things other than nutrition. Today's gourmet pet food industry is also a drain on supplies in which there have been massive recalls over the last year or more.
- Commercial Operations: This group includes any type of food prepared outside of the home. Hospitals, residential facilities such as dormitories, school lunch programs(not actually a federally run program), convenience stores, vending machines, restaurants and catering businesses get the next cut of the pie (no pun intended). As restaurant owners explained at the beginning of the pandemic, these kitchens purchase bulk sized containers. Good managers can keep waste to a minimum but because serving size is predetermined customers may simply not need or want as much food as is served. In most cases, these chefs have access to whole foods and do not get the watered down versions which are found in many grocery outlets.
- Value Added Foods: There is one last attempt to turn an abundance of basic food into something pricey and that is called "Value-Added Products." These products include the rotisserie chicken and sliced meats at the deli counter, servings such as juice boxes or individual containers and already molded hamburgers or specialty seasoned meats. Then you have quick fix boxed dinners like Hamburger helper and microwave pouches for steamed vegetable. Any change from a food's original form is considered better and therefore more expensive. For example, the rotisserie chicken that you pay $8.99 for is a 2 to 3 pound, mostly bone, bird that costs the store a dollar and a half. The nutrition is the same but the size is a third of what an uncooked bird with a similar price would be.
- Local Grocery Outlets: After all these other groups buy what they want, then food producers take whats left and package it for the most profit. Cheese that is cheese food. Juices that are juice drinks. Milk that is from a plant based mixture and meat that has been canned or breaded and fried. Even more interesting is the number of imported foods that are found in the produce section or the meat section. Besides foods which are largely devoid of anything but calories, the cost of these available products has gone up because of a scarcity result from preferential service to the federal government.
Implications for Health
As the World learned during the Covid-19 pandemic, not even the greatest healthcare system can fend off a virus when good nutrition is lacking. For fifty years, educated populations believed that healthcare was more important than nutrition. Now many are dependent on vitamin supplements and medications to maintain the illusion of health. Still, the federal government skims the best off the top and fails to regulate what foods are marketed to children and the elderly. Sadly, a look at food labels quickly shows that a fast food hamburger offers more balanced food value than a boxed mac and cheese with organic pasta prepared at home.