Sunday, June 12, 2011

Good Food for All

published Jan. 2011,

Unless the radio news report is about a particularly violent event, I leave the news on when my daughters are in the room. My almost 11 year old likes to listen to radio reports in the car with me and it stirs up interesting discussions.

Driving to Potsdam recently, I had both daughters with me. The news report was about the problem of malnourished obese people living in poverty. Both daughters were trying to understand how someone can be obese, yet also malnourished. If you are overweight you eat too many calories and therefore are nourished, right? Wrong. Cheap food gives the body many calories, but those foods are not full of nutrients. A bag of chips will have many more calories than a head of broccoli, but they are empty calories which contribute little to a well nourished body. A person will then gain weight from the high calorie food, yet remain malnourished due to the quality of food consumed. It is a cycle in which a person has little money for food, buys the cheapest food available (usually empty calories), becomes obese, over time becomes malnourished and all this leads to health issues and even less available money due to medical bills. How do we even begin to combat this?

Here is what Naomi, my 7 year old, says:

Naomi: Well, we could give people seeds.

Me: Yes and there is an organization here which does this. Not everyone though has garden space or knows how to plant them.

Naomi: We could teach them or we could have one big garden and give everyone a space. If they needed help, we could harvest the vegetables for them.

Me: There is a church which grows food and donates it to people who might not have fresh vegetables. Gardeners also donate food to food pantries. It would be nice if others could maintain their own garden at home or in a community garden (I then go on to tell her about community gardens).

Naomi: I like that. Maybe then they would eat broccoli.

Emma (the almost 11 year old): I bet the people feel yucky after only eating chips and cookies.

Me: I am sure they do. (So ends the conversation for now...)

I wish the answer to obesity and malnourishment were as easy as Naomi proposes. Go back two years to a news article of Jan. 9th, 2008 titled: The Poor Get Diabetes, the Rich Get Local and Organic by Mark Winne. I deeply sigh whenever I see a title such as this. Part of me sighs because the issue is so complicated. Another part sighs because it is true in many cases. Yet another part of me sighs because of what I know and what others might not. Like Winne, I know people in poverty would also choose local and organic if they had the means and it was available to them.

All of us want what is best for our children and as Winne points out, urban low-income people are aware of the benefits of organic and local. There are many factors limiting access to healthy food both in rural and urban areas. Transportation, lack of availability, price, and mistrust puts up a wall which blocks all of us from consuming the healthiest food available.

There is hope! In the next few blogs I will take time to talk more about this issue and the projects going on which might help close the food gap.

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