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Obesity and overweight are major eating disorders with significant concerns and implications for public health policy in the United States (Franklin et al., 2012). Overweight and obese population in the United States has been identified as a major threat to food security policy (United Nations, 2013). Food insecurity and obesity have adverse implications for the economic, political, social, and health aspects of the society (United Nations, 2013).
Food security is an important area for policy considerations with increasing evidence supporting the role it plays in socio-economic stability and attainment of sustainable societal development (United Nations, 2013). In the recent past, researchers have been interested in exploring the existing link between food insecurity and overweight/obesity (Franklin et al., 2012). Franklin et al. (2012) reported that there was a strong and positive association between obesity and food insecurity, especially regarding the women population. Pan et al. (2012) reported a strong connection between food insecurity and obesity among American adult population. The authors observed that one out of every three food insecure adults was suffering from obesity. Furthermore, food insecurity is directly related to obesity risk in the overall population and subgroups (Pan et al., 2012). Therefore, the connection between obesity and food security is integral to the development and implementation of appropriate policy initiatives.
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Two alternative policy interventions in the area of food security have been identified for addressing the problem of overweight and obesity.
The first option is to increase access to healthy food. American adults who belong to extreme categories of food insecurities have been found to be at the greatest risk of suffering from overweight and obesity problems (Franklin et al., 2012). Pan et al. (2012) conclude that the best way to address food insecurity, overweight, and obesity is to ensure that the whole adult American population has access to affordable and healthy food. Ensuring access to healthy and quality food is a plausible food security policy that has the potential of improving dietary and consumption habits of Americans. It also ensures the development of healthy eating choices, such as reducing calories, cholesterol, fast food, and fat intake (Beck & Schatz, 2014). According to the survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) between 2005 and 2010, most Americans are eating healthy foods and do not consume many calories. The healthy trend is attributed to the Obama administration initiatives that have ensured increased household access to healthy foods.
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Unfortunately, healthy foods are still costly in the United States, and the possibility of ensuring that they are affordable for all Americans remains obscure. According to Donnelly (2014), healthy foods cost approximately three times more compared with the junk and unhealthy foods. According to the author, in 2012, the cost of 1000 calories of healthy food was £7.49 compared to £2.50 of junk food of the same quantity. Hence, increasing access to healthy food without addressing the challenge of affordability will not assist the financially constrained households to deal with the issue of food insecurity, overweight, and obesity.
Another policy intervention option for food insecurity, overweight, and obesity relates to instituting control and regulation regarding production, processing, and marketing of food. Beck and Schatz (2014) attribute the positive trends in healthy behavior to the aggressive government regulation of manufacturers and food producers to engage in healthy food production and processing. The Affordable Care Act requires all food manufacturers to produce healthy food and provide nutritional information on product packages and menus (Beck & Schatz, 2014). Regulation and control of the production and manufacturing of food indicates government commitment to food security and health. It offers a standard framework that can be applied nationwide by a majority of households irrespective of their financial situation.
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Nevertheless, it is unclear whether such a policy would be implemented effectively to attain the desired outcomes (Beck & Schatz, 2014). Furthermore, the regulatory and compliance requirements increase the overhead costs in the production, transportation, processing, and marketing of healthy foods (Mortenson, 2011). These costs are transferred to the final consumer, thus amplifying the affordability challenge and limiting access to these healthy foods (Mortenson, 2011).
Food security is an important policy area in the United States, especially in respect to overweight and obesity. Increasing access to healthy food and regulating food manufacturers will ensure that the American adult population achieves food security. Nevertheless, regulations and controls are ineffective, because they increase the overhead costs that are ultimately borne by the consumer. High costs reduce the affordability and access of households to healthy foods (Mortenson, 2011). Therefore, increasing access to affordable and healthy food is an effective policy for addressing food insecurity, overweight, and obesity (Donnelly, 2014). Although this policy has proved to be effective, there is a need for targeted interventions that would not only ensure access to healthy food but also promote affordability and policy sustainability (Donnelly, 2014).
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