The USDA is spending about $2 million of taxpayer money to open a research center to attempt to find a way to get all Americans to eat a more healthy diet. The United States Department of Agriculture is in the process of accepting applications for grants to establish the Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research. One of the primary tasks for the new federal government division will be to “break up combo meals” at fast food chains in order to nudge customers away from unhealthy foods.
Backlash to the USDA food choice research center was both swift and severe. Americans already concerned about both federal government overreach and fiscal responsibility are making their voices heard on the matter.
Excerpt from the USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research grant announcement:
“The USDA Center will facilitate new and innovative research on the application of behavioral economics theory to healthy food choice behaviors that would contribute to enhancing the nutrition, food security, and health of American consumers. With a total outlay of $108.9 billion in FY 2013, food and nutrition assistance accounted for 72 percent of USDA’s budget. Approximately 1 in 4 Americans participated in at least 1 of the 15 food and nutrition assistance programs at some point during FY 2013, making these programs fundamental to the nutritional well-being of millions of Americans. These diverse activities share the common goal of improving nutrition, food security, and health of American consumers.”
Staffers at the USDA Center will investigate how package and proportion size can be presented in a manner which “encourages healthful consumption.” The government facility will also research how fast food menu boards which showcase food bundles can be combated. The healthy food choices group will research ways to “encourage” food stamp participants (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP) to make grocery shopping lists, plan meals in advance, and to stop shopping when hungry.
Over the course of the next three years, the USDA Center will be given $1.9 million with future funding possibilities also on the table. The research focus of those given jobs at the agriculture department facility will reportedly focus primarily on improving the diets of Americans enrolled on food stamps and WIC. Opponents of the government healthy food choices plan have noted that if food stamps would not longer be able to be used to buy unhealthy food options or be used at ATM for cash, the perceived problem would be resolved both quickly and without costing a dime to taxpayers.
Should the federal government super-size itself in an attempt to reduce the waistlines of Americans?
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