May 13, 2010
01:34 PMThe Wind Machine
The Fruits of Obesity
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity on May 11 released its report: “Solving The Problem Of Childhood Obesity Within A Generation.” It is 120 pages in length and does not read like a novel. “Empowering” is a favored word.
However, there is good news for our part of agriculture in that the report repeatedly boosts the idea of increasing produce consumption. Along with less sugar in children’s diets, there should be more fruits and vegetables: “Currently, children and adolescents consume far lower quantities of fruits and vegetables than recommended in the Dietary Guidelines. On average, children consumed only 64% of the recommended levels of fruit….” One way to overcome this problem, the report says, is by providing more healthy food in the schools through such vehicles as USDA’s school lunch program. Also, more effective nutritional education by government and the promotion of greater physical activity by children are strongly advocated.
One area of the report especially caught my eye and, I am certain, that of others who work on Farm Bill politics. Under the section “Agriculture Policy”, the report first points out with a questioning tone that nearly all federal agricultural subsidies currently go to five commodities: soybeans, corn, rice, wheat, and cotton. It then goes on “USDA’s Economic Research Service has estimated that to establish a sufficient supply of fruits … for all Americans to meet the Dietary Guidelines, U.S. producers would have to double their fruit acreage (from 3.5 million acres today, to 7.6 million) …” These words will be valuable support for the future legislative efforts of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.
No government report is complete without benchmarks of success, and here the one of highest interest to our apple, pear, and cherry growers is: “By 2020, increase the availability of fruits and vegetables in the America food supply by 70%, or 450 pounds per year.” To meet this benchmark goal, consumption of fruit would have to increase by 132%.
Many federal reports are quietly issued, then gather dust on the shelf. This one will be given much more attention, because it has the strong backing of First Lady Michelle Obama and the powerful food mavens of the national media. And because, above all else, there is an actual obesity problem in our country that needs solving.