Tuesday, August 9, 2011

NPR: Tackling Obesity Amid Poverty In A Mississippi County : NPR

Tackling Obesity Amid Poverty In A Mississippi County : NPR
Valerie Moore's weight and poor  eating habits caught up with her two years ago, when she had a stroke at age 26.

This woman had a stroke when she was in her twenties and has since lost quite a lot of weight. She talked about how expensive fresh vegetables and fruit are, making the statement that if you have a low income those types of food are out of the range of your budget. She said (paraphrasing) that if you only have $5 and need a meal for you and your two kids for tonight, you can't choose the best food. In other words, the hamburgers on the dollar-menu are going to win out.

This is nothing new to me, having been a student for so many years, having been on a tight budget for all times, and before that living in a family which was poor. It often seems much, much too expensive to buy many tomatoes when they are over $3/pound, lettuce that is over $2, and when the cheapest fruit is $1/pound and only on-sale. I also have the ability to shop for sales and travel by private transportation to get these bargains, which many certainly do not. If you need to buy food close to home, you can count on almost double those prices, especially if you only live close enough to a "convenience" store. Broccoli is certainly very expensive and so is cauliflower. The woman interviewed said that buying a can of processed corn is affordable whereas 4 ears of corn are not.

What got me really thinking was when the older generation talks about how today's children are so out-of-touch with where their food comes from. I hear this a lot, and it sounds accusatory as if children willfully are just lazy and incurious:
"Every generation is getting weaker and wider," McLaurin says. McLaurin, 70, says his generation had to fish, hunt and work in the garden. "But now, children, that don't ring a bell with them."
This is where I think society shoulders the blame, not children. Our culture is so obsessed with making and spending money, and now views food as something to grab-and-go, a necessary but time-wasting activity. Witness how we treat the farmers in our country, forcing them to become mechanized assembly lines that produce food. Our society has cut out any emotion or love for the food and made it another form of commercialism. And, this is what we - as a culture - have passed onto today's children. That everything is a business and we are all cogs in the big machine.

What I think is the most important thing to comment on here is when the 70 year-old man said that children lose out because their lives are not are not like his was: his family had to hunt and fish and grow food. That is a loss -- one that I keenly and frequently experience -- feeling so cut-off from Nature. I recently moved to a new apartment (in a house) and just the fact that I have a 5-foot by 3-foot area of grass that I can walk barefoot in thrills me to no end.

What clicked in my mind was that I would be hard-pressed to tell you where one could hunt in my city or the immediate area. And, the actions one would have to go through to buy/own a gun makes that quite prohibitive.

One can fish -- with a purchased license -- if you can travel 4 miles away. Will the bus go to the ocean? Would anyone carry fishing poles and a bucket on the bus with their catch of the day? Can you bring dead animals on a bus?

In the apartment building I lived in, there was no grass on the property, let alone an area to grow a garden. Fortunately, I was financially able to move to this new place. One of the first things I did was plant a garden, after convincing the landlord to turn on the water faucet outside so I could water the plants. There is only room for 5 plants, but I am happy with that. I certainly could not live on the food from my garden.

So, it seems to be that this is the culture that our mechanized society has created for us to exist in. Is it any wonder we are divorced from our food?

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