Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow and director of Women for Food Freedom project at the Independent Women's Forum.
New research confirms that Americans are spending more of their money on food than ever before. The average American spent $277 for groceries for the month in August 2011 compared to $251 in August 2007. Mothers report an even higher spike, from $312 to $341 during the same timeframe.
As a mother of three young and seemingly perpetually hungry boys, I often wonder as I walk down the shopping aisles just how I am going to be able to afford to feed these three eating machines as both their bodies and their already titanic appetites grow. For me, increased costs mean cutting down on some of our favorite foods while keeping track of sales and special deals. This new research shows I'm not alone in my cost-saving strategies.
In this new era of food austerity, people are cutting back on the food they love. Much to the chagrin of children nationwide, bakery foods such as donuts, cookies, breads, candy, and store-made desserts are no longer landing in our grocery carts. Coupon use is on the rise and brand loyalty is a thing of the past as the majority polled said they are switching to store and generic brands and would try a new product if a coupon was offered. People are even getting more organized by preparing grocery lists ostensibly to cut down on spontaneous purchases.
It's obvious that American moms—the primary purchasers of groceries—are working hard to keep their family's food prices as low as possible. Why then are federal regulatory agencies scheming to impose a whole new set of taxes and regulations on food, which will increase costs more for an already financially burdened American public?
Do-gooder regulators justify these new government interventions as necessary to promote better health. Yet studies overwhelmingly show that such tactics do nothing to help improve the health or lower the weight of Americans.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control hosted a conference in Washington D.C. where the glitterati of food nannies and government minders gathered to discuss a problem that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius characterized as being worse than cancer. The conferees spent days (and, no doubt, millions of taxpayer dollars at this government-hosted event) to determine something Americans have already been told a few million times: We're fat.
The highlight of the meeting was to unveil a 400+ page Institute of Medicine report on the current obesity "epidemic" that, in a nut shell, says (surprise!) most Americans are overweight. Among the report's sure-not-to-fail-even-though-they-have-in-the-past suggestions to combat the obesity problem is that communities should ignore the historically high youth unemployment rate and adopt zoning laws restricting the construction fast food restaurants (where so many young people find work).
Lawmakers are also urged to ignore the research on soda consumption showing that most obese people drink diet colas and begin levying taxes on sodas and sugary drinks—a tax that would therefore primarily punish thin people. And even though the food industry already voluntarily limits food advertisements during children's programming, the report suggests that busybody federal regulators ban these food advertisements.
The Food and Drug Administration also has an ambitious regulatory schedule. In their four year strategic plan, the administration announced that it would begin regulating restaurants, vending machines, and even the very recipes food manufacturers use for their products. By "encouraging" food manufacturers to reduce sodium and trans-fats in the "food supply," the Food and Drug Administration willfully ignores what millions of Americans see every day in the grocery store—plenty of low- and no-sodium as well as trans-fat free products.
The Obama administration should note that Americans don't approve of the government telling them how to eat. A 2010 CBS poll found a two-thirds majority of Americans disapproved of so-called sin taxes on foods and beverages. The poll also showed that Americans don't buy the food nanny's favorite talking point that these taxes will lower obesity. Those sentiments remain. A 2012 Rasmussen poll shows that support of taxes on snack foods and soft drinks has fallen farther, with a measly 18 percent in support.
Government officials like to say "we're here to help." Yet their "help" is amounting to nothing more than higher food prices, less choices, and more burdens on job creators, like the food industry. Moms will find a way a way to feed their children, and they could better do it without this "help" from Uncle Sam.
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