Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's Not Just Food

- by Stacey Prince

Among the most common New Year's resolutions are those having to do with eating better, exercising and losing weight. This year I have heard from friends (or stated myself) various food-related goals including eating healthier, more vegetables, less fat, less sugar, less red meat, going vegan, more protein, and keeping it local. Have you ever thought about what a privilege it is to even be able to state these as deliberate (and attainable) goals? Two recent articles made me think just that, and caused me to reflect on the ways that social inequities play out in the foods we eat - with subsequent consequences for things as far reaching as health, obesity, mortality risk, and school performance.

The first article, entitled Divided We Eat, appeared in Newsweek in late November, right before Thanksgiving. This fascinating article describes the various ways that class impacts nutrition, and maintains that food has become one of the most salient representations of "the great divide" between rich and poor. Trends such as being "foodies," "health food nuts," "locavores," and eating "organic" are a privilege and a luxury, out of reach for many. According to data released by the US Department of Agriculture, 17 percent of Americans (more than 50 million people) live in households that are categorized as "food insecure," meaning they sometimes run out of money to purchase food, or run out of food before they can get more money. Food insecurity is most severe in the South and in large urban areas. Food insecurity co-varies with other indices of economic stability such as housing and employment, so it's no surprise that the biggest surge in food insecurity since the measure was established in 1995 occurred between 2007 and 2008, at the beginning of the economic downturn.

To read entire article click here.

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