As a society we are overfed and undernourished. For the first time in history, poor people are often obese. There are lots of theories about why our culture makes such poor food choices, even while the consequences of doing so are so obvious.
The reasons are no doubt complicated and interwoven. The bottom line of course is too much caloric intake. But that still begs the question of why.
One common argument is that folks (especially the working poor) are too busy to prepare meals and eat good food. I’ve been in the situation of working late and coming home too tired to make a meal. I can understand the temptation to pick up something at KFC to feed the family after a long exhausting day on the job. But in the parts of the world where there are no fast food restaurants and junk food, the working poor still manage to prepare and eat good food (if they have it). And plenty of working people in our own country prioritize meals and nutrition. The problem can’t be attributed entirely to our being too busy to eat right.
And the health crisis is affecting the unemployed poor too, however. They too are eating junk and they, arguably, have plenty of time to make a decent meal. Why is that?
One theory is that good food is too expensive, so the poor have to eat cheap unwholesome food. There is truth to this, but it is also true that a meal at McDonald’s or a meal from a convenience store is usually more expensive than a wholesome meal of inexpensive food like beans, rice, frozen veggies, etc. It’s more complicated than just the price of food.
Another theory is that the poor often live in food deserts, without access to good quality food. So they have no choice but to eat the junk that is sold in their community. There is truth to this one too. I know of communities where the only food available is from overpriced convenience stores selling crap for food. People who live there don’t have cars or the ability to get to a real grocery store, so they tend to feed themselves and their families the health-impairing food that is available to them.
But consider this ARTICLE about a food desert in Philadelphia. After polling the neighborhood and determining that there was interest in having a good quality source of food, a store was built there to offer it. Michelle Obama came to the grand opening. At least one food desert was going to be healed. But after the store was built folks just went right on shopping and eating the way they always had. The store made no difference at all. In that community, at least, the answer wasn’t just making quality food available.
Changing the way we eat is not going to be easy. It seems to me that education is an indispensable part of it. Folks simply have to understand what food means to their health and have to come to realize that the food they’re eating, however much they like the taste of it, may be poison.
When I was a kid it seemed that nearly everybody smoked. It’s taken a long time, but the tide has clearly turned against smoking.
Maybe the same thing will happen with food. But it’s not going to be easy.