Farm Bureau, America's Second Harvest: Don't Blame Obesity on Ag

America's Second Harvest
Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Leaders from the nation's leading agriculture and hunger-relief organizations joined today to counter recent attacks accusing U.S. agriculture of being one of the culprits behind obesity in the United States. They also sought to refocus the debate on the lingering challenge of hunger in America.

In comments to reporters, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman and America's Second Harvest President Bob Forney said while obesity is a serious concern for all Americans, critics often fail to realize that obesity and hunger co-exist. National Hunger Awareness day is June 3.

"Critics falsely say U.S. agriculture is the cause for the nation's weight gain, and they incorrectly claim an over-abundance of affordable food is the reason the U.S. population is becoming more and more fat," said Stallman. "To put the growing hunger problem in perspective, while hundreds of attendees at a media event on obesity listen to experts speak about having too much food at the nation's disposal, approximately 13 million children will go hungry."

"Although Time and ABC aren't focusing on it at their summit, hunger and obesity do go hand in hand," Stallman said, referring to the Time/ABC Summit on Obesity occurring this week in Williamsburg, Va. He urged critics to stop pointing fingers at agriculture and find real solutions to the growing obesity and hunger problems.

"It is a real stretch to blame farm programs for obesity," Stallman said. "It is also outrageous that U.S. farmers are being made one of the scapegoats for obesity."

According to Second Harvest's Forney, obesity is a problem, but it is not the only food problem affecting Americans. "The obesity angle is very objectionable. It's time we just talk straight about farm issues and hunger issues. Trying to utilize obesity to discuss very technical agriculture economic issues is a very lame way to getting at the subject matter," he said.

"Speaking for 40 million people who don't have a voice, who have one day, tomorrow, National Hunger Awareness Day, the topic ought to be their plight-not obesity and certainly not obesity as it relates to food being too cheap and too accessible. I don't know if they'd cry or laugh," said Forney. "It's time we get down to what's really the issue, which is hunger in America."

Both organizations said they would be highlighting National Hunger Awareness Day by holding food drives, volunteering in their local food banks, donating food and getting the word out that hunger, rather than obesity, should be our national focus as long as any American child goes to bed without proper nourishment.

For more information, or to contact America's Second Harvest, see their website at: www.secondharvest.org

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