Evaluating the Impact of Government Policy on Consumption
Researchers have found that the price of food influences individual’s consumption choices.52
Foods that pack in the most calories, such as fats, sugar, and meat, are cheaper and may explain today’s unprecedented high rates of obesity. In turn, nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods, especially fruits and vegetables, may be consumed less with rising costs, in turn, limiting the impact of healthful dietary guidance.53
For many people, particularly children and low-income Americans, federal programs have a direct and concrete influence on what they eat. More than 30 million children receive a government-supported lunch at school each day through the National School Lunch program. USDA-purchased surplus meat and dairy products, as well as processed grains, fruits, and vegetables, are supplied to schools for use in school feeding programs. As noted above, the rationale for these purchases is based solely on agriculture support goals—rather than nutrition recommendations. The most noteworthy result has been a glut of animal products, including millions of dollars in high-fat cheese, available to schools at low cost. Similarly, individuals participating in other programs such as WIC and TEFAP receive USDA commodity purchases.