Group releases report in Santa Cruz on government food subsidies

  • August 8, 2013

By Bonnie Horgos
Sentinel Staff Writer

SANTA CRUZ -- On the heels of Twinkies making a comeback Monday after an eight-month hiatus, a student advocacy group used the packaged treat as an example of government subsidies for apples versus corn- and soy-derived ingredients.

Half an apple sat next to 20 Twinkies, symbolizing the government subsidies of corn-laden processed food compared with apples. Apples receive just a fraction of federal money subsidizing corn and soy products, according to the California Public Interest Research Group.

About 15 people stood outside The Food Bin, a Santa Cruz grocery store, Tuesday morning to release the report "Apples to Twinkies 2013: Comparing Taxpayers Subsidies for Fresh Produce and Junk Food."

The report was released by the California Public Interest Research Group, a statewide student organization dealing with social and economic issues.

Rebecca Loux, the organization's citizen outreach director at UC Santa Cruz, led the discussion Tuesday and discussed the report's statistics.

According to the report, from 1995 to 2012, more than $19 billion in taxes subsidized corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, cornstarch and hydrogenated vegetable oils. At $7.30 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 20 Twinkies, the report concluded.

Since 1995, taxpayers spent $689 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables, according to the report. Coming to 26 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than half of one Red Delicious apple, the report found.

"This is the last time we should be using taxpayer dollars to pay for junk food," Loux said.

Dieter Schmidtmeier, who will head the organization's chapter at Cal State East Bay this fall, said he joined the group to change legislation, particularly in relation to food subsidies.

"The work of this organization has been so progressive," Schmidtmeier said.

Schmidtmeier said that people representing the organization have spoken to 3.5 million Americans in an attempt to raise awareness on issues impacting citizens. The group protested against an increase in college student loan interest rates earlier this year.

And working with the group has helped Joseph Janiga, a 20-year-old Santa Cruz resident, further understand his classes at UCSC. He's a junior economics major.

"I'm sort of trying to learn a little bit on this point and get on board with the movement," Janiga said.

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