Don’t let them eat cake

Taylor Buckland, Staff Reporter

Obesity has been a leading crisis in the United States for years, and according to research, the root of this problem lies in the high prices of healthy and nutritious food.

According to a 2016 study by WebMD, 69 percent of women and 75 percent of men were overweight or obese. As of 2018, those numbers are rising.

Most cases belong to lower-income families. Over 33 percent of adults who make a maximum of $15,000 are obese, compared to 24 percent of adults who make at least $50,000 who are obese. Children from poor families are also 20 to 60 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.

A study made by the University of Michigan Health System showed that poverty contributed more toward obesity than race and gender did.

“It illustrates that race and ethnicity in communities may not have a significant connection to obesity status once the community’s income is considered,” said senior author Kim A. Eagle, a cardiologist and director at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Moreover, a Harvard study showed that a family adding healthy foods to their diet could cost them about $2,000 more per year.

“Over the course of a year, $1.50/day more for eating a healthy diet would increase food costs for one person by about $550 per year,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s senior author and associate professor at HSPH and Harvard Medical School. “This would represent a real burden for some families, and we need policies to help offset these costs.”

A food desert is defined as an urban area in which it is difficult to buy or afford good quality fresh food. Many low-income Americans are living in these areas and don’t have ready access to large grocery stores.

Having access to healthy food should not be considered a luxury, yet the reality is that it is, and not everyone can afford it. Expensive foods are usually cut out of low budgets when cheaper alternatives exist, such as fast food, which is inexpensive for a family meal, readily available, and efficiently fills stomachs.

However, these foods replace nutrients with starches, added sugars and vegetable fats. To counteract fast food, the Thrifty Food Plan was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a guide to show people the cheapest nutritional foods and meals to add to their diet, but this plan lacks variety and doesn’t account for flavor.

Lower income families can’t afford the more flavorful options not depicted in this plan. If healthy and nutritious food are made cheaper and available to everyone, many Americans wouldn’t be forced to eat such unhealthy foods, which would positively impact the U.S. obesity “epidemic” greatly.

If the federal government provides subsidies to grocery stores in high poverty areas to lower the prices of healthy foods and fresh produce, not only will the community benefit, but the government would receive payoff too. This method of “health care” is significantly cheaper than the money spent by the government to pay for underprivileged citizen’s treatment for issues caused by obesity.

In addition, local farmers can be paid to provide their produce to grocery stores or receive tax breaks for opening vegetable stands in high-poverty areas.

This eliminates the high prices of importation and greed for profit by chain company grocery stores.
Gardening is also a cheap way to eat healthier, and the government provide federal grants for those who create cooperative gardens.