House Bill 1025, the second supplemental appropriations bill of the session, is an absolute Christmas tree of a bill, spending loads of taxpayer money on everything from a $35 k+ executive pay raise to 2 dozen-plus new state employees to almost $20 million to purchase a prison in Jones County.
And then there’s Section 29 of the bill. It reads:
Take note of that last section related to “food deserts,” an imaginary concept created by liberals interested in subsidizing urban grocery stores all under the guise of health and welfare. And it’s not just conservative groups that have dismissed this idea—groups as far-ranging as the Center for Disease Control, the RAND Corporation, the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, the Economist, and even the New York Times have all but discredited “food deserts.” In their own words:
- The Center for Disease Control, Neighborhood Food Outlets, Diet, and Obesity Among California Adults, 2007 and 2009, March 2013.
“The relationship between neighborhood food environments and obesity occupies a central role in policy debates. A recurring theme is the notion of “food deserts,” where access to healthful and affordable food is limited. Food deserts are often identified by the absence of supermarkets or full-range grocery stores and by the presence of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Hypotheses that link the food environment with obesity claim that proximity to fast-food outlets, convenience stores, or small grocery stores undermines diet quality, whereas proximity to supermarkets or full-range grocery stores enhances it by providing healthful products, mainly fruits and vegetables. However, evidence is more tentative than often presented in the news media and in policy arguments.”
“We found no strong evidence that food outlets near homes are associated with dietary intake or BMI.”
- The RAND Corporation, Junk Foods in Schools and Childhood Obesity, Spring 2012 and School and Residential Neighborhood Food Environment and Diet Among California Youth, Feb. 2012
- The Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, The Supermarket Gap: How to Ensure Equitable Access to Affordable, Healthy Food, May 2010.
“Access to healthy foods has been defined almost entirely in terms of geographic proximity to full service supermarkets and grocery stores. Physical distance to the nearest store was linked, in many studies, to the residents’ diet quality and health. Missing was any information on actual human behavior – where people actually chose to shop for food. A study based in Seattle King County showed that very few people shopped for food in their immediate area. Rather, their choice of supermarkets was guided by a complex mix of attitudinal, demographic and socioeconomic factors. The importance of price was tempered by other variables. The perceived importance of a healthy diet, in particular, was a key factor in supermarket choice.
Importantly, the use of full service supermarkets as primary food sources did not confer protection against obesity. Depending on store type, obesity rates varied from 4% to close to 40%, even though the supermarkets in question had wide availability of fresh, wholesome foods, including vegetables and fruit. Supermarket choice may be another –and previously unacknowledged – manifestation of socioeconomic status.”
- The Economist, If you build it, they may not come, July 2011.
“…neither USDA nor the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has been able to establish a causal link between food deserts and dietary health. In fact, both agree that merely improving access to healthy food does not change consumer behaviour.”
- The New York Times, Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity, April 2012.
“It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama, that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.
But two new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.”
Despite all of the studies and commentary discrediting “food deserts,” however, lawmakers are on the verge of throwing $10 million at a problem that doesn’t exist.