Commentary from Governor David Patterson, New York on CNN.com:
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a new public health epidemic: childhood obesity.
What smoking was to my parents’ generation, obesity is to my children’s generation. Nearly one out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese. In many high-poverty areas, the rate is closer to one out of three.
That is why, in the state budget I presented last Tuesday, I proposed a tax on sugared beverages like soda. Research has demonstrated that soft-drink consumption is one of the main drivers of childhood obesity.
These days I’m no longer surprised when something like an “obesity tax” is foisted upon the masses without so much as a whimper – afterall it is your fault if you’re fat, right? You should pay more, right?
Several commentators in the media applauded the move by Governor Patterson – Nicolas Kristof opined the hope that other states will follow suit because “if other states follow, [it] could help make us healthier.”
He even ties it up neatly with a bow, repeating Patterson’s parallel to smoking and cigarettes, “These days, sugary drinks are to American health roughly what tobacco was a generation ago. A tax would shift some consumers, especially kids, to diet drinks or water.”
No one likes taxes, but by golly, we must do this for the children! We must save ourselves from ourselves with this tax – save the children, save the world, reduce consumption of sugared beverages and all will be well.
What’s maddening isn’t so much the propsed tax on sugared beverages, it is what government does if they can get away with it….what’s maddening is that no one seems to notice that we are already paying taxes that enable the flood of cheap soda, fruit drinks and sugared beverages into our markets. It’s paid by our taxes in the Farm Bill, with corn being king amongst the crops subsidized by our tax dollars.
This new tax represents a double taxation to New Yorkers – taxed first from their income to subsidize corn in the Farm Bill; and now to add insult to injury, when they dare to consume products made from the corn products their tax dollars helped make cheap at the consumer level – namely high-fructose corn syrup….beverages produced that are artificially low in price at the consumer level and often cheaper than buying a bottle of water!
If the government truly wants to tackle the obesity epidemic, perhaps it’s time to revisit the Farm Bill and how it is directly creating a market flooded with cheap corn calories at the consumer level for things like high-fructose corn syrup which is used in thousands of food products in our markets!
They say the road to hell is paved by good intentions.
The Toronto Star recently noted the political battlelines drawn around the debate to ban bottled water in Toronto, “Environmentalists claim bottled water commercializes a public resource, undermines faith in Canadian water systems, and sends plastic bottles to the landfills. The bottled water industry counters that environmental groups rig recycling rate numbers and vilify a product that helps combat obesity.”
Last week the vote was cast and the Toronto city council voted to immediately ban the sale and/or distribution of bottled water in City Hall and the city’s civic centres where contracts permit, and ban the sale and/or distribution of bottled water in other city-owned facilities such as arenas and theatres by the end of 2011.
While it’s now illegal to not only sell bottled water, but also illegal to distribute bottled water in city-owned facilities in Toronto, it’s still perfectly legal and acceptable to sell and distribute sweetened waters (translation – soda and fruit drinks).
Afterall, isn’t that really what soda and fruit drinks are – simply sweetened water?
Let me see if I understand this.
Bottled water = bad-illegal
Bottled soda & fruit drinks = good-legal
This vote after Statistics Canada released data that found Canadians consumed more than 95 litres of soft drinks in 2007!
How much more soda and fruit drinks do you think folks will drink now that bottled water is banned?
*Items with a star were “maybe” items included when I saw the total was still within budget, listed in order placed into the final order.
3-quarts half & half
2 dozen large eggs
1/2 gallon organic whole milk
1 8-ounce brick store-brand mozzarella
1 8-ounce brick store-brand cheddar
1 container sour cream
1 container cottage cheese
1 package cream cheese
10 8-ounce containers assorted store-brand yogurt (including plain)
1-pound bag frozen spinach
1-pound bag frozen whole strawberries
1 can bean sprouts
2 cans green beans
Small Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 Bottles store-brand salad dressing
1 small bottle soy sauce
2 cans mandarin oranges
1 bag dried split peas
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
5 bananas bunch
1 head cauliflower
2 bags of store-brand mixed salad
1 head iceberg lettuce
2 kiwi fruit
1 yellow pepper
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
Yellow and green squash
1 spaghetti squash
1 package Wholly guacamole
1 package Oscar Mayer bacon
1 whole chicken
1 package chicken leg/thigh quarters
1 package split chicken breasts
2 pounds ground beef
1 large pork roast
1 package coconut crusted fish filets (store made; raw; frozen)
1 package eye-of-round steak
Folgers coffee* (I had a smaller, less expensive container, but added this instead)
1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts*
1/2 pint heavy cream*
1 small bottle olive oil*
1 small jar minced garlic*
Assorted bags, very small amounts, open/loose spices sold by the ounce*
1 container blue cheese crumbles*
3 small sample size cheese (butterkase, gouda, gruyere)*
1 container roasted red pepper hummus*
1 5-pack Toufayan tomato wraps*
1 package pita*
1 small pumpkin*
You’ll notice that above I don’t have any tomatoes or tomato sauce. That’s because we have a garden and right now, an excess of tomatoes that have to be eaten or made into sauce, so I’ll be using those tomatoes in some dishes this week.
As you can see, I wasn’t left with little choice – I didn’t have to buy boxes of macaroni & cheese or ramen noodles. In fact, with the higher budget this year, I was able to buy much more fresh produce and meat, along with some “goodies” to enhance the meals I’ll make, like blue cheese to top salads, assorted cheeses for snacks, and decent coffee for our morning brew.
In May 2007, I decided to step up to a challenge getting a lot of press as the Congress was readying to pass a new farm bill – it was to feed my family with a budget those recieving food stamps must stay within each week.
At that time, the average per day was just $3.00 per person each day, which translated to $21 per week per person, or $63 total for all three of us to eat for one week. I chronicled my shopping, meals and my thoughts afterward between May 25 and June 5, which are still available on my blog.
Making the news this week is a new challenge as we near the holiday season and more individuals and families find themselves in need of assistance. Yesterday kicked-off the Grand Rapids for the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge where those participating try to live on $5.87 per day per person (the new, higher maximum level provided to recipients).
From news reports, “300 state and local leaders who have pledged to live on the equivalent of food stamps for five days.”
Apparently the governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, is participating in the challenge. As reported by mlive.com, “The governor says she took her son shopping Sunday at a Meijer grocery store. They could only spend $5.87 per day per person. She says she bought a lot of macaroni and cheese.”
Like last year, I’m not surprised by the belief perpetuated in the media that one must eat poor quality, high carbohydrate, cheap foods to survive on a limited budget. Last year I showed that was untrue as I fed my family a high-quality, nutrient dense diet for the week on just $3.00 a day per person. This year recipients receive even more money and I have to wonder, given the current economic situation, is the increase enough or not?
So this year, once again, I’m going to see what a food stamp budget, $5.87 per person per day, buys us since food prices have steadily increased in the last year.
Can we eat as well as we did last year?
Will I need to make compromises?
Will we eat better?
Last year a number of comments criticized that I shopped in three different stores, had access to the internet to review sales circulars and plan based on sales, and had time to plan our meals before I shopped. For this challenge, I will shop in the closest grocery store to our house, will pick-up the circular when I enter the store and do my best without pre-planning the week since it was pretty clear that time and ability to plan ahead are both issues for many.
Like last year, I invite readers to step up to the challenge too and share your experience in the comments as we move forward for the week, starting tomorrow.
Here’s our rules for the October 2008 Food Stamp Challenge:
1. Maximum per person is $5.87 per person per day. For us, a family of three, this means I have to feed us with just $123.27 in the coming week. Your total budget does not include any sales tax since recipient purchases are not subject to sales tax.
2. Salt and pepper are considered in your pantry, so you do not need to buy either. But any other spices, condiments or cooking fats/oils do need to be purchased or you need to deduct a portion of your cost when you did buy the item that is in your pantry since it’s difficult to have a stocked pantry when you’re on food stamps. For example, if you do have chopped garlic in your house, you don’t have to buy another jar for the week, but should – if you use some – deduct a part of the cost. If the jar cost $5.00 and you use one serving from a 10-serving jar, take 50-cents off your budget to account for the garlic you used.
3. It’s best to plan ahead, so if you have mailed or newspaper ad circulars, review what’s on sale and make a list before you shop. This time around, I’ll personally not plan ahead like I did last year and I’ll shop in only one grocery store. You don’t have to unless you want to also.
4. If you have a child in school and they receive or buy lunch, do not deduct this from your budget. Any foods you pack for lunch or snacks does have to be part of your budget however.
5. The budget does not include paper products, cleaning supplies, over-the-counter medicines, prescription medication, or non-food items not covered by food stamps. If you do need to buy these while you’re shopping, just make them a separate order, paid for separately, so you can accurately add up what you’re spending on food only.
6. We can shop for, prepare and cook whatever we want to eat, and can eat free food at business functions, meetings, work, or other places just like anyone else; in addition we can sample from tasting stations in grocery stores, and eat at parties we attend, hosted by friends or family. We cannot take home leftovers to stretch our budget though.
7. We can also eat out – but do need to include any meals we pay for and include the tax and tip since food stamp recipients cannot pay for meals out with their debit card, but also do have the expectation that the food stamps are assistance, not their sole source of buying food…we’ll include any meals out in our total budget.
Basically, the challenge includes preparing and eating what you are able to purchase throughout the coming week, and any meals eaten out, since it’s one thing to have to shop with a limited budget and another to live with it for a week.
Who will join me this week?
Again this year, those participating in the challenge are encouraged to email me photos of their groceries for the week, along with recipes and meal ideas and insights about your experiences during the week. I’ll highlight them here on my blog next week and open discussion about the various challenges we all faced, and the things we learned along the way! As always your comments are welcome as the challenge gets underway!
- Reach: How many people would this idea affect?
- Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need?
- Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two?
- Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea?
- Longevity: How long will the idea’s impact last?
Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and three time winner of the National Association of Science Writers’ Science in Society award, is scheduled to present his lecture, The Quality of Calories: Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Diet, Exercise and Obesity, on November 13, 2008 in Columbia, Missouri.
The event is sponsored by the Boone County Medical Society and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri. It is free and open to the public. Registration is strongly recommended as seating is limited.
The presenation will take place at the Monsanto Auditorium (University of Missouri) at 2:30pm and will be followed by a reception in the McQuinn Atrium. More details are on the flyer below. To register online, click here.