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.