Commentary: Don’t blame obesity on deserts
All the promotion of consuming locally grown foods and making more healthy foods available to poor urban neighborhoods has been promoted as contributing answers to lowering the obesity rate of children and adults in those poor urban areas. Now two studies show that healthy-food deserts don’t really exist in most situations where child obesity is rampant.
The Department of Agriculture and Michelle Obama have talked about solving the problem of fresh fruits and vegetables not being available to urban poor. These communities where no healthy foods are available to purchase have been named "healthy food deserts."
Solutions to obesity aren’t something that the USDA should be expected to completely solve. Other than providing healthy foods for school lunch programs, USDA should stand down on financing programs to promote locally grown small-scale production and eliminating healthy food deserts, and Congress should not fund such programs.
The New York Times reported that a National Institutes of Health financed study found multiple outlets for fresh fruits and vegetables within reasonable distances or right in the middle of poor urban neighborhoods. Another study was put together by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit research organization, and it found much the same results as the other study. Each study was conducted in significantly different manners, but final reports had much the same interpretations of data collected.
Gina Kolata, wrote in the Times article, “Some experts say these new findings raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods. Despite campaigns to get Americans to exercise more and eat healthier foods, obesity rates have not budged over the past decade, according to recently released federal data.”
The truth of the obesity situation is explained not by healthy foods being unavailable but by how kids and adults like to spend their money for calories. Kolata further reported findings of how two full-service supermarkets and a produce stand were available, but money was spent on other foods. “In one neighborhood in Camden, N.J., where 80 percent of children are eligible for a free school lunch, children bought empanadas, sodas and candy at a grocer, while adults said they had no trouble finding produce. Wedged in among fast food restaurants, convenience stores, sit-down restaurants, take-out Chinese and pizza parlors were three places with abundant produce.”