It’s not your fault you’re fat

It’s the income disparity.

While obesity is a complex problem—genetics, environment, and activity level all play a role—a 2008 study by the USDA found that children and women on food stamps were likelier to be overweight than those who were not. According to studies led by British epidemiologist Kate Pickett, obesity rates are highest in developed countries with the greatest income disparities. America is among the most obese of nations; Japan, with its relatively low income inequality, is the thinnest.

If we were socialists, we wouldn’t have this problem.

Tiffiney Davis, a single mom, lives about four miles away from me, in subsidized housing, in a gentrifying neighborhood called Red Hook. Steps from her apartment, you can find ample evidence of foodie culture: Fairway, the supermarket where I buy my Dutch cheese, is right there, as is a chic bakery, and a newfangled lobster pound. Davis says she has sometimes worried about having enough food. She works in Manhattan, earning $13 an hour for a corporate catering company (which once had a contract with NEWSWEEK), and she receives food stamps. She spends $100 a week on food for herself and her two kids. Sometimes she stretches her budget by bringing food home from work.

Single mother-check. Food stamps- check. So now we’ll examine how low income leads to obesity.

Davis is sheepish about what her family eats for breakfast. Everybody rises at 6, and there’s a mad rush to get the door, so often they eat bodega food. Her daughter, Malaezia, 10, will have egg and cheese on a roll; her son, 13-year-old Tashawn, a muffin and soda. She herself used to pop into at Dunkin’ Donuts for two doughnuts and a latte, but when New York chain restaurants started posting calories on their menus, she stopped. “I try my best to lessen the chemicals and the fattening stuff,” she says, “but it’s hard.”

OMG. They have to wake up at 6? Well, it’s no wonder Davis can’t have a box of cereal in her kitchen. I totally understand why they couldn’t all grab a piece of whole wheat bread smeared with peanut butter. Yes, Dunkin Donuts, muffins, soda. I’m sure those are much cheaper. And she’s got to stretch her dollar. Loaves of bread sometimes run northward of a $2.50 a loaf. Now, much better (and cheaper!) that they eat bodega food.

Time is just part of the problem, Davis explains, as she prepares Sunday dinner in her cheerful kitchen. Tonight she’s making fried chicken wings with bottled barbecue sauce; yellow rice from a box; black beans from a can; broccoli; and carrots, cooked in olive oil and honey. A home-cooked dinner doesn’t happen every night. On weeknights, everyone gets home, exhausted—and then there’s homework. Several nights a week, they get takeout: Chinese, or Domino’s, or McDonald’s. Davis doesn’t buy fruits and vegetables mostly because they’re too expensive, and in the markets where she usually shops, they’re not fresh. “I buy bananas and bring them home and 10 minutes later they’re no good…Whole Foods sells fresh, beautiful tomatoes,” she says. “Here, they’re packaged and full of chemicals anyway. So I mostly buy canned foods.”

She doesn’t buy fruits and vegetables because they’re expensive but they order Chinese, or Domino’s, or McDonalds? I manage to buy such things at regular (non-whole-food) stores, and by some mystery they last longer than 10 minutes. You know what I think the dealo is? You’re actually suppose to EAT them. Not leave them on the counter while you run to the Bodega in the morning, or grab take-out McDonalds at night.

“Food justice” doesn’t make its appearance in the article until page six. But it’s there, of course.

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7 Comments on “It’s not your fault you’re fat”

  1. Hotspur Says:

    Stupidity and laziness cause obesity. Nothing to do with poverty.

  2. Car in Says:

    I said that much over at PW.

  3. Jess Says:

    It’s clear that obesity causes income disparity. Those darn fat folks^W^Wpeople of girth will be the death of our republic!

  4. jw Says:

    Locally produced food is more delicious than the stuff you get in the supermarket; it’s better for the small farmers and the farm animals; and, as a movement, it’s better for the environment. It’s easy—and probably healthy, if you can afford it—to make that choice as an individual or a family, says the New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle. Bridging the divide is much harder. “Choosing local or organic is something you can actually do. It’s very difficult for people to get involved in policy.”

    “Locavore activists in New York and other cities are doing what they can to help the poor with access to fresh food. Incentive programs give food-stamp recipients extra credit if they buy groceries at farmers’ markets. Food co-ops and community-garden associations are doing better urban outreach. Municipalities are establishing bus routes between poor neighborhoods and those where well-stocked supermarkets exist.”

    Ahhhh….but s510 will prohibit this.
    My next door neighbor who grows the BEST tomatoes and squash ever will be prohibited to do so. Another neighbor, at a distance, who provides us with farm raised chicken eggs, the best, will be prohibited from doing so. These folks do it for the hobby and sell cheaply. But low and behold s510. No more farmer’s markets!

    Makes it a little tough for the little guy, yanno?


  5. jw Says:

    I forgot…all y’all here? Have a great Thanksgiving!

  6. Herr Morgenholz Says:

    I love food snobs, because they don’t know a damned thing about food. I worked as a chef for several years. “Meatballs with organic romaine and buckwheat pasta”? That’s dog food. “Organic romaine”? Well, it is cheaper than the non-carbon based stuff. Oh, sorry, by “organic” they mean “a plant with the intellectual heft to be able to tell the difference between a nitrogen ion from Monsanto and a nitrogen ion from a chicken’s ass”.

    Utterly, completely, and totally clueless. They can name 37 different varieties of Camembert, but to their tongues it’s the same as Velveeta. They have $9.00 bottles of herbs purchased at Chez Douchebag’s Organic Patisserie and Gated Community, and they use the whole damn thing to get the same flavoring I get from a pinch of shit from the Dollar Store. (Dollar Store herbs invariably have more ass. They’re fresher because they’re so cheap. They’re produced in a “churn and burn” operation where you have to keep product moving to make a buck.)

    Snobbery is its own reward. These people were always laughable when they sent food back. My favorite was the guy who complained there wasn’t enough saffron in his saffron rice side. Of course, the server informed me that he was really enjoying his Mavrodaphne wine with his beef loin medallions, medium-well, of course. (Mavrodaphne is a sweet Greek wine. For dessert.)

    Sorry to be so verbose. Time to pull the colostomy bag out of my free-range, organic, fair trade, no medication, locally grown, highly educated turkey, shove it in a Reynolds oven bag with some ketchup, peanut butter, and baked beans, turn that SOB up to high and watch it cook. When the button pops up, it’s done.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. MCPO Airdale Says:

    When food prices double over the next 2 years, this won’t be an issue.

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