About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just how bad is the obesity problem?

I have drawn the comparison between smoking and unhealthy eating before in this blog and I found an interesting new study that compares the two in this week's Los Angeles Times.

I am always thinking about what we can learn from the problem of Smoking in America. At one point, smoking was the biggest public health concern in our country. Just like we see with the food industry today, tons of large and powerful tobacco corporations had a lot at stake. There were major profits involved, but alarming numbers of people were dying.

This week, I found an article in the Los Angeles Times that really startled me.

In her article, Rising Obesity Rates Imperil Health Gains,
  • We've put out massive anti-smoking PSA advertisement campaigns.
  • We've flooded our schools with education programs to prevent our children from starting this deadly habit early.
  • We've banned these hazardous substances from school grounds, from restaurants, and many public spaces.
  • We've taxed the hell out of them to discourage people from buying them.
  • We've sued the corporations that push these substances in billion dollar class action lawsuits to get a little payback for the costly harm their product has produced for our society and to our health care system.
  • We've created aids from gum and patches to step by step programs and support groups to help people break their addiction and get their health back on track.
Given the fact that the obesity is taking such a major toll on the American life expectancy, might we start doing some of those things to help ourselves kick the "bad food" habit?


  1. The trick is, how do you ban food? Who gets to decide what is "good" food and what is "bad"? Cigarettes were easy - we can ALL live without them. But none of us can live without food. Just watching the industry's confusion about whether to avoid fats or sugars or calories in general over the past three decades is enough to make any sane human quesiton any line drawn in the sand about what constitutes "good" food. When you're looking at those with poverty-stricken budgets tossed into the equation, those definitions get even harder to apply.

    I think one of the ways we might get healthier food to the public is to change our farm subsidy program. If a wider variety of foods enjoyed subsidies, or those that do qualify had smaller subsidies, we might start seeing a shift away from those primary ingredients of "junk" food. That said, I have n-laws whose income depends on leasing family farmland to farmers planting subsidized crops, so it's a delicate, complicated situation.

    I recently finished reading "The End of Overeating In America" which had some fascinating neuro-psych research on the effects of things like eating and smoking on the brain, and some interesting observations about what could work to counter it.

  2. Correction, that book title is "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite"

    And my apologies for not proofing better. Egads, the typos...

  3. I think a good beginning would be imposing a serious tax on Junk food and fast food the same way we tax liquor and cigarettes. Not only would it slow down obesity but if all else failed it could possibly fund the entire National Health care plan. I read that taxing soda alone at 10-15% could raise and estimated 15 billion dollars the first year and 149 billion over tens years.

    Imagine the same tax on big Macs, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza, chips and donuts. The only thing is the fast food and snack food corporations would have their lobbyist in Washington quick,flash and in a hurry . So as long as a fat and fast food loving America is profitable I don't see an end in sight.