Thursday, July 2, 2009

Solving Rural Obesity, a Primer

I just read an article at the Huffington Post about obesity in the U.S. Apparently, Mississippi is still the "fattest", but Alabama is closing in quickly. The researchers in the article were like, "we should improve school lunches and sidewalks so the people can walk their neighborhoods instead of driving." What? Okay, the school lunch thing is spot on, because there are areas where that may be all or nearly all that a kid gets to eat that day. But sidewalks? That will work in large cities--Birmingham, etc., but most of Alabama and Mississippi are rural. Sidewalks are not going to help at all. Even if you have sidewalks running all over the place, things are too far apart to bother.

I'll tell you how to solve the obesity problem in the rural South: GIVE PEOPLE OPTIONS. I have always maintained that if you give someone on food stamps or even just a very low income healthy choices for prices they can afford, they will pick them over the unhealthy ones. For example, say you have exactly $20 for groceries, money or food stamps, to last you a week or two. Are you going to buy $1 pizzas and 8 for $1 ramen noodles that will last or a small amount of fresh produce that won't? No matter how much better for you the veggies are, the math simply doesn't work. If farmer's markets and healthy food were made available, accessible, and most of all affordable for the rural poor, they would take it. No one wants their kids to be obese and increase their risks for health problems, but in a choice between healthy and hungry or full but heavier, what do you think will be the choice?

Of course, economic development, sex education, higher literacy rates, and being paid a living wage would help more...but that's a whole 'nother blog.


Anonymous said...

speak it, sister.

rick mentioned that article when he was on his rant this morning. (thankfully he at least agrees with me on this subject, or else i think my brain would spontaneously combust.) i wonder when these politicians will wake up and realize that the most obese areas of the country also happen to be some of the most rural, racially divided, and poor. i wish they would pay me to analyze this mess...i could have told them that years ago. we should open up a government consulting firm :D

Mommy Sprout said...

I agree with your solution. Maybe making food stamps more like WIC, where the coupons are good for certain items - I believe in some places fresh fruits and veggies are something that's provided.

I don't think it would help too much though, really. Working with kids, I've found that I have very very few overweight children in my program, and only one that would be termed obese. But, I think the reason is that many of my children have been in childcare all their lives and as a result, spend a lot more time than the average kid *gasp* PLAYING in ways that doesn't involve electronic media.

Healthier food is a start, but I don't really see a dent being made unless phyiscal activity is added. (and this from me, who THANK GOD I have decent genes, because my exercise is limited to what I have to do to chase kids, and run a hallway (-: