Eighteen billion dollars. That is how much money American taxpayers have paid since 1995 to subsidize the production of four junk food ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oil.

Instead of using our tax money to produce healthy fruits and vegetables, the dollars major agribusinesses receive from the federal government too often ends up as empty calories.

This is government waste at its finest. It's even more ridiculous given that rates of childhood obesity have tripled in the past three decades.

Congress will return soon from August recess, and when it does, representatives will be voting on whether or not to continue these wasteful subsidies. To protect their taxpayer money, and our children's health, I urge readers to contact their representative and tell him or her to vote no to junk food subsidies. Otherwise, the only voices Congress will hear will be those of the corporations these subsidies benefit.

Laura Muth, Baltimore

The writer is an associate with Maryland PIRG.