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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
committee acknowledges that the nation’s food supply is part of a global food system, and that many food-related issues lie outside of any one nation’s purview. However, the committee also realizes that the global implications of domestic solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic should be thoughtfully considered so that new problems are not created that may produce adverse consequences (Appendix D).
There are a number of mechanisms by which U.S. federal agricultural policies may potentially affect the types of foods available to and marketed to children. For example, schools participating in the NSLP may choose to receive entitlement commodities purchased by USDA specifically for the program or receive bonus commodities from USDA to bolster the agricultural markets for particular products (to address temporary surpluses or to help stabilize farm prices) (USDA, 2002, 2004b). In the 2001-2002 school year, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Farm Service Agency together spent more than $765 million on school lunch entitlement purchases and approximately $58 million in providing bonus commodities (USDA, 2004b). These included beef, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, flours, grains, dairy products, and peanut products. As discussed in Chapter 7, there are several federal, state, and local programs at present, such as the Department of Defense’s Fresh Produce Program, that provide the distribution mechanisms for delivering fresh produce from farms to schools.
A second set of policies to examine involves the check-off programs, used for agriculture products such as beef, pork, and dairy, in which producers are required to donate money—a fixed amount for each unit sold—to a fund established by federal legislation but run by a national private-sector board (Dairy Management, 2004; National Pork Board, 2004; USDA, 2004a). For example, the National Pork Board reports that pork producers and importers pay 40 cents on each $100 when pigs or pork products are sold; these funds generated $47.8 million in 2003 (National Pork Board, 2004) for use in advertising, marketing, education, research, and other programs that promoted the commodity.
Concerns have been raised about the many factors that influence food demand and food consumption behaviors of Americans—the types and prices of available foods, technological advances, time pressures, and government policies on agriculture, taxes, and exports/imports—which are outside of consumer control (NRC, 2004).
A review of agricultural policies could identify unintended effects of U.S. agricultural subsidies on human health. For example, Americans’ per capita consumption of caloric sweeteners—primarily sucrose derived from cane, beets, and corn (notably high fructose corn syrup)—increased by 43 pounds, or 39 percent, between 1950-1959 and 2000 (USDA, 2003b). In 2000, the average American consumed 152 pounds of caloric sweeteners, which was equivalent to 52 teaspoons of added sugars per person per day