Twinkies

Twinkies (File photo / February 10, 2014)

The federal government doled out taxpayer subsidies last year that went to support $1.28 billion in junk food, an analysis by MaryPIRG found.

In a report released Wednesday the consumer advocacy group said that since 1995 $18.2 billion has gone to support junk food. The amount is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies a year, the group said.

In comparison, about $637 million subsidies has gone towards apples since 2005, enough to buy 77 million apples per year.

About 75 percent of the subsidies go to just 3.8 percent of farmers, the group said. The subsidies support just a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans.  Corn and soy crops are processed into high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils used in junk food.

MaryPirg said this is reason to reform federal farm subsidies, particularly as childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last decade.

"The reason why junk food is so cheap and easily accessible is because it is intentionally made to be cheap," said Jenny Levin, Maryland PIRG State Advocate

Maryland residents’ share of the expense for junk food subsidies is about $20 million each year on average, compared with just $700,000 in subsidies for apples, according to MaryPirg.

Baltimore City residents’ share of the expense for junk food subsidies is about $2 million each year on average, compared with just $74,000 in subsidies for apples, the group said.

Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese.  Research shows that increased snacking contributes to obesity.