Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obesity and poverty. . .

Diet and nutrition continue to be incredible challenges for people who don't have much money.

On the one hand, access to affordable and healthy food products remains very limited in many inner city neighborhoods in Dallas simply because there are almost no full-service grocery markets.

On the other, the food products that prove to be affordable and available usually turn out to be very unhealthy.

Our Community Health Services clinic recently prepared a report on a segment of its patients battling dietary challenges that are resulting in dangerous health status outcomes.

Of the 1,291 patients screened. . .

. . .14 were underweight.

. . .187 were judged at a healthy weight.

. . .391 were overweight.

. . .571 were obese.

. . .128 were very obese.

Terrifying results from a public health standpoint.

Income levels dramatically affect health outcomes, as do neighborhood environments and resources.

So, how do we change things? What do you think?



Politics & Culture said...

Why are there no full-service grocery markets in the inner city?

Is it because of theft and loss? If so, what can be done about that?

Larry James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry James said...

It is not primarily about theft and loss--read all the studies. It is about market share, bias and easier margins. It is about systemic discrimination against the poor for the sake of larger and easier profits.

Anonymous said...

I read recently that in 1975, 12% of Americans were seriously overwight or obese; by 1985 that number had doubled to 25%; by 2005 it had doubled again, to 50% of the American population. If these numbers are accurate, this particular issue is not just a poverty issue, but an American issue. All of us have too much high calorie, low value food available and sit around too much. Like most problems, it just afflicts the poor a little more.

Daniel Gray said...

Most supermarkets operate on profit margins of less than 5%. It's one of the lowest margins of any industry, so I think most grocers are very careful of where they open businesses.

I'm guessing development costs in highly urban areas are a bit higher, and with the stigma attached to these communities, insurance and other fees are a lot higher, and it's probably a lot more expensive to finance construction, because most lenders would see it as a high risk, high default area.

I'd be interested to learn more about Aldi... they seem to operate in some low-income areas, since they are smaller stores with a very conservative expense model.

This is definitely an arena where the public sector (city/state) needs to step up, by creating tax/economic incentives to encourage and help finance construction in these distressed communities.

Justin said...

I would totally agree with the government exempting groceries from say, property taxes, and regulations, as well as offering some sort of legal protection from frivolous suits. I have heard that insurance is much higher in low income neighborhoods because of a higher likelihood of lawsuits from slipping and falling in the store.

Probably the best situation would be if city governments encouraged stores like walmart to move into inner city areas. Not only would that bring some better paying jobs, but it would lower cost of living tremendously. Seems like it might even be in their interest to send transportation to low income areas where people don't have vehicles to take people to and from stores.

Matt W said...

This is an issue near to our heart in Memphis, especially since we were recently rated as the most obese city in America (and also one of the poorest, go figure).

I attend a small church on the south side of the city and for the coming year we decided to do something about the problem. The church grounds include a rather large field that stays, for the most part, unused. We are working out plans to turn this piece of land into a community garden, where we can grow healthy, organic vegetables and give them away to the people living in our community.

At this point, the idea is still in the planning stages, but I will be meeting with our elders on Monday to formally present our plans.

Larry James said...

Last comment removed--no commerical posts will be allowed here.

Anonymous said...

having run an ethnic grocery in the barrio, we found that we were unable to stay open unless we sold liquor and cigarettes, which we were unwilling to do. convenience stores which sold these products, although having higher costs, were able to survive on the margin from these products. on the other hand, no one ever came in and tried to rob us...

Larry James said...

Commercial ads will always be removed from this site.

Beau said...

How do we change things? Education.

These people just need education about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.... and the drawbacks of eating processed/refined/concentrated foods.

Fruits and Vegetables are cheap and satisfy the appetite much better than any non-food "food product".

Eating "food products" which don't satiate (proper intake of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber) are like a drug that causes a food addiction... and thus over eating... and thus obesity.

Unlike other addictions, eating addictions are socially acceptable. And even worse, those we respect (mothers, fathers, grandmas, etc.) make us feel bad that we're not finishing our plates or they force more food on us.

Anyway... just a few thoughts.

I highly recommend Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman - a must read for every person in a human-health related field.

yllwrssr4me said...

As a city dweller and poor college student. I know how hard it is to afford groceries in the city (automatically 20% more expensive than suburbs). The fruits and veggies available in the markets near me were never attractive (old or bruised from lack of turnover).
As a city dweller i am also never home so my fruits and veggies often go bad.
Buying apples from my neighborhood fruit stand is a weekend treat that i have always enjoyed.

The wallmart suggestion: obviously you have never been to a big box store in urban areas. Big Box stores are areas of high crime and their parking lots are dead zones, (cities thrive off of multi use spaces parking lots=not multi use).
The worst part about wall-mart is that they drive the Mom and Pop stores out of business. So you say just buy at wally-world their great right? well no closing out small business leaves a high volume of commercial space open meaning property owners will get less rent, then property owners can not maintain the commercial space and the whole area becomes run down. . . . aka urban decay accelerates.