Good post of some of the rational economics behind consumption of junk food by low-income individuals and families (Supersize Me also captured this). No easy policy response to this, although the article explores some possible ones. Quote:
Far from being a case of fraud or gluttony on the public dime, most of the cause appears to be one of surprisingly rational economics. Contrary to standard belief, eating healthy and nutritional food actually costs more than eating so-called “junk food”. This is not by accident. The food industry has become very good at producing high caloric and high energy but low cost processed food that is of low nutritional value. I.e. they include things like saturated fats and high carbohydrate amounts that make the food taste great while eliminating more costly and less tasty nutritional ingredients.
For people with limited means it makes economic sense to maximize the energy content of the food while minimizing costs. Junk food has other advantages as well including minimizing preparation time and effort, being easily stored, and usually being easily available in poorer neighborhoods that typically lack grocery stores. The net result is long term poor dietary habits such as increased meal portions and massive weight gain. Impoverished Americans are no longer “hungry” or “starving” but have become “food insecure” meaning that they do not have the financial resources to have regular access to nutritional food.