Subsidizing unhealthinessLast summer, I mused about why fast food was so cheap in the US while making dinner from scratch with fresh ingredients can be comparably expensive. As compared to Africa, where fast food and processed food are relatively expensive and fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are extremely inexpensive. This is why obesity is a particular problem among poor Americans whereas being overweight is a sign of affluence in Africa.
There are other choices that make unhealthy food and drink less expensive.
My company, like many others, provides free coffee to employees. Several years ago, non-coffee drinkers complained about this and the company agreed to subsidize some of the cost of other beverages.
As a result, soda now costs $0.90 for a 20 oz bottle. Bottles of Gatorade, iced tea, syrupy 'fruit' drinks and bottled water cost the same. Given what the same distributing company charges for the same product at its other vending machines, I think the company is kicking in $0.45, or about a third of the cost of each bottle.
Yet the same size bottle of orange juice or apple juice in the same vending machine costs $1.50.
What this means is that my company is subsidizing the cost of soda, Gatorade, iced tea, syrupy drinks and bottled water (and coffee of course), but not juice. They subsidize the unhealthy and neutral drinks but not the ones that actually offer vitamins.
Yet they put a quarterly newsletter in the box of every employee telling us how to make healthier lifestyle choices.
If the company has decided to spend its money subsidizing drinks for employees, maybe it can rearrange its priorities to help employees make those healthier choices more cheaply.