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Here are a few initiatives and ideas that may help shift this frightening tide of poverty and disease:
- Stop government subsidies for junk food. Stop or reduce subsidies of agriculture products that allow for the glut of cheap, high-calorie, nutrient-poor sugars and fats from corn, wheat and soy into the marketplace.
- Tax sugar. We should tax sugar (and maybe even processed junk food with added sugars.) A one cent per ounce tax would raise $15 billion a year, while a 10 cent per ounce tax could raise $150 billion per year(11). This could support national food programs and community projects to fight obesity and diabetes and promote health, and help cover the hundreds of billions of dollars of health care costs from increasing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The food industry has blocked initiatives for this tax in 30 states by pouring millions of dollars into lobbying and donations such as the $10 million Coca-Cola gave to a hospital in Philadelphia to swing the vote in the legislature(12).
- End junk food marketing to children. We are one of the only countries that allow this. Studies show that the worse the food, the more the marketing. The average 2 year old can recognize and name junk food from their baby carriage in the supermarket(13).
- Fund community-based initiatives. Support healthy eating with community kitchens, gardens, and cooking classes that teach how to make good food cheaply. Children need life skills on how to care for and feed their bodies. We are raising the first generation of Americans who don’t know how to cook. If implemented, the new health care bill and the new Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health provide avenues to support these programs.
- Provide incentives for grocery stores and farmer’s markets in food deserts and all communities.
- Make school lunches healthy by providing only real food and modeling healthy eating. Food can be both fun for you and good for you. Create national standards based on sound 21st century nutritional science and common sense. Most schools have only a microwave or deep fryer, hardly the tools needed to feed our children real, fresh food. Any government-supported programs should have strict guidelines for what foods may be served. There is no room for junk food or sugar calories in schools.
- Change zoning around schools to limit access to fast food and convenience stores. We shouldn’t have to rely on parents blockading junk food stores after school, as a group of parents did in Philadelphia. We shouldn’t make it easy to get bad food!
- The FDA should regulate sugar as a drug, not as a “GRAS” or generally recognized as safe substance. It is a known toxin and is deadly when consumed in large quantities.
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