Look out the window from where you live. What do you see? Do you see tree-lined streets with wide sidewalks and kids out riding their bikes? Or do you see guys loitering on the sidewalk, next to a tobacco shop with a neon sign, smoking away? Do you live near a grocery store? Or, are you surrounded by Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and liquor stores?
Your zip code may play a role in how healthy you are. Health has been proven to be tied to economic means and that’s often tied, unfortunately, to race. Sometimes kids ask the question, “How can poor people be fat?” Grownups might tell them not to ask such a rude question, but maybe we should actually try to answer.
Look at people in other countries and you will see that the poor people are skinny. They are not surrounded by what we have in the United States; they don’t have cheap fast food available in even the poorest community. It’s a sad fact, but junk food is often the most inexpensive food option. It’s not nutritional, but you can buy fries or a burger for $1. Just $1. Even a person begging on the street can afford that.
It’s sad, but true, that those who are most economically disadvantaged are being hit by the food industry’s lure of fat, sugar and salt – all at a nominal cost. Students in poorer schools lug around huge bags of spicy Cheetos at lunch time. They guzzle colas like water. It’s no wonder this population is having an explosion of heart disease and early-onset diabetes.
Currently, one-third of all adults in the United States are obese. That number is highest for non-Hispanic African Americans. For that group, the number skyrockets to almost 50 percent! This is unacceptable.
Clint Smith, teacher and poet in Washington DC, believes that living in a food desert is like being shackled and chained. He says, “A food desert is “categorized as a poor, urban area where residents cannot afford or are not given access to healthy foods and grocery stores.”
Here are a few more facts: Women with college degrees are less likely to be obese than those from higher income families. White women are less likely to be obese than women of any other race besides Asians, who have the lowest rate of obesity.
So, does your zip code matter? Absolutely. Even the state you live in matters. States with the fewest obese citizens are Colorado, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Those with the highest number are in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
So, what can you do to overcome your circumstances if you happen to live in a food desert? Make the drive to an actual grocery store and stock up on fruits, vegetables and lean meats and dairy. It’s worth it to take the extra time to cook something your body can be happy about. Don’t forget to exercise for at least 30 minutes 4-5 times per week.