So, do you think the $1.00 menu at fast food restaurants is a deal? There is no value in the long run when considering the cost of obesity & chronic disease. Obesity is crippling our workforce, communities, families & costing our country over $150 billion per year in lost productivity & health care expenditures. 50% of these costs are paid for by public funds. Obesity-related health care costs are projected to exceed $300 billion by the year 2018. American businesses are losing over $70 billion in lost productivity. Companies & jobs are moving to other countries where health care is much less. American businesses are suffering by a diminished position in the world’s economy, reduced productivity & profits & increased health care premiums.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average sick day costs a business about $348 in lost productivity. “The health of our workforce is inextricably linked to the productivity of our nation’s workforce, & therefore to the health of our national economy. It’s that central to our nation’s viability. We need to address the health crisis in our country, which will then simultaneously address the cost crisis. What can happen is that we can establish a culture of health in which wellness really becomes just a part of doing every day business for an employer, an entire community, an entire state, an entire nation.”
Ron Loeppke MD, MPH, FACOEM, FACPM Executive Vice President, Health and Productivity
What is driving this epidemic? Low cost, high profit food (or processed substances) & inactivity. Currently, more than 75% of people drive to work, which is a 300% increase from 50 years ago. Only 20% of jobs require moderate physical activity. Less than 5% of adults meet the physical activity guidelines. In 1969, 42% of children walked or biked to school. Today, more than 80% of school-aged youth are driven by cars or buses, while consuming approximately 7.5 hours of media/screen time per day. Also, many urban youth buy cheap processed products at corner, convenience stores. One study showed that more than 50% of Philadelphia school children shop at corner stores every day before or after school. Many New Yorkers purchase up to 80% of their food from convenience stores & their typical purchases consist of soft drinks, processed snack foods, candy & chips.
Our food system has become an industrialized, commodity market that focuses on marketing convenient, processed garbage that is literally killing people. In 2010, the food industry spent more than $12 billion on advertising. $4 billion of that was contributed by the fast food industry. Government subsidy programs are geared to support commodity products that help processed food producers to keep costs down, so they can enjoy a high profit margin while still selling cheap food to consumers, who perceive they are getting a value. Every 5 years, the farm bill distributes about $45 billion to growers of corn, soy & other commodities. Products like corn make high fructose corn syrup for soda & grain for cattle, which eventually become cheap hamburgers.Yet, there are NO subsidies for fruit & vegetable growers. Family farms have been consolidated into massive growing fields that are controlled by corporations, rewarded by growing monocrops instead of providing diversity of supply.
There is a 90% profit margin for soft drinks & only a 10% profit margin for fresh produce growers. The #1 source for our overweight epidemic is the consumption of sugary beverages, including juices. Since 1977, the sales of sugary beverages are up 135%. In contrast, the recommended servings of fruits & vegetables is up to 7-13 servings per day, because of the lack of nutrition in the soil & the need for nutrition in our bodies.We must make fruits & vegetables more affordable & accessible! We do not even grow enough fruits & vegetables to meet the U.S. dietary recommendations. Less than 3% of American farmlands grow fruits & vegetables. Local fruit & vegetable growers comprise only 2% of all U.S. agriculture sales. If we committed more financial resources to support & market healthy produce, family farms & the Local Food Movement, we would reduce long-term health care costs & reduce the burden from the American tax payers.
The bottom line is we are spending less on food & more on health care. So are you really getting a value when you buy your lunch or family meals from a drive through restaurant? If you are planning on living a long healthy life, then the answer is clear. Cheap food increases body fat & actually leaves your body hungry for REAL food, not just empty calories. We must stop promoting foods that are making are families sick! Instead of supporting the fast food industry, stop by the grocery store & invest your hard-earned money on REAL food that is found on the perimeter of the store. Consume real food that provides true nourishment. When your body is fed empty calories, it is still hungry for nutrition. When we feed that hunger with more empty calories, the cycle will continue & your body will store those excess calories as fat. Prepare your own food, pack your own lunch & enjoy the long-term benefits of eating WELL!
Sources: HBO Documentary, Weight of the Nation