Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does Cheap Food Make the US Happy? Probably Not ....

One of the perks of my job is that I think about food constantly, which is great, since I love good food. Lots of people in the US, especially low-income people, have trouble affording good food, however - many of FNS's programs are designed in some way to get good food to low-income people.

[On C-Span], a representative from the Food Marketing Institute [repeated] the food industry's main defense of consolidation: that it benefits U.S. consumers by allowing us to spend less on food as a percentage of income than the citizens of any other country in the world... Now, correlation does not prove causation. But if the food industry wants to claim that its abundance of cheap crap delivers higher quality of life, it will have to explain why our citizens come down with diet-related maladies at rates so much higher than those in countries where food is pricier. For most of us, "quality of life" does not dovetail with gaining too much weight, getting diabetes, and dying of a heart attack.
His main graph shows that the US may indeed have the cheapest food relative to income, but that the US lags other, more expensive food countries in key quality of life indicators, many of which are directly impacted by the food people choose to consume:


I'm sure this relationship is far more complicated than the simple economic observation that "if a good is cheap, people tend to consume more (too much?) of it," and that there are a host of confounding factors involved here as well. Delving into this too deeply is beyond the scope of a hobby blog - I hope I'll have the chance to work on these issues as a part of my real job sometime soon.

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