The Weight Gain and Poverty Connection
Being overweight used to be a symbol of prosperity. It signified that one didn’t have to do manual work and lifted one up to a higher socioeconomic status. This millennium, however, the opposite is true. These days, the lower the income level, the higher the obesity rate. People don’t choose to become poor. Unfortunately, one of the results of poverty is obesity.
There are many reasons for this disparity in income level and weight. The lowest income levels in our country lead to a higher obesity level partially due to a lower education level. People in the lowest income brackets tend to be more ignorant/uneducated on good, healthy nutrition. Many people living in poverty work multiple jobs in order to make the basic ends meet. This leads to less time being devoted to cooking real food. It’s much easier and faster to pop a prepackaged meal in the microwave than to plan, shop, and cook a good nutritional meal.
People living in poverty also generally live in neighborhoods with less access to fitness centers, recreational centers, or farmer’s markets. Healthy foods also tend to be more pricy than others. For instance, a head of broccoli may cost $3. For the same amount, one can purchase a value meal from a variety of fast food chains.
Poverty leads to food insecurity. In the United States, one in five kids live in poverty, one in four kids’ families depend on food stamps, and one in ten people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
This leads to binging on cheap, sugary, starchy, or fatty calories in order to satisfy hunger. These calories are cheaper. Twelve hundred calories of cookies can cost one dollar. For that same dollar, only 250 calories worth of carrots can be purchased at the market.
Low income neighborhoods often lack grocery stores as well, but are abundant in convenience stores. When living in poverty, transportation can present a challenge. It is simply more economically sound and time-saving to take a trip to the local convenience store or fast food restaurant than to take a taxi or find a ride to the closest market. This results in consumption of cheap, energy dense foods that are filling and also fattening. Add to that the free entertainment many fast food chains provide for the children of exhausted, stressed -out parents, and you can understand the epidemic.
The potential health risks attributed to obesity and food insecurity in poverty-stricken areas need to wake America up. These risks will add cost to the federal health care program for sure. Some of the outcomes are: micronutrient deficiencies, obesity related diseases, impaired educational attainment, growth retardation in children, cognitive impairment, increased morbidity, behavioral dysfunction, and learning disabilities.