Archive for December 2011
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to stay out of the Republican presidential race means that the American people will be spared months of discussion about his ample waistline and the bad example it sets. Nonetheless, with first lady Michelle Obama urging everyone to get moving, obesity remains a political hot potato, or maybe a tater tot. Below, a helping of skepticism about the causes of Americans’ poor eating habits—and the effectiveness of political fixes.
1. People in poor neighborhoods lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Walk into nearly any supermarket in the United States, and you are immediately confronted with abundance—bok choy, mangos, melons and avocados from across the globe—where a couple of varieties of apples and carrots once struggled to fill shelf space.
But not everyone has easy access to this fruity phantasmagoria. If you’re picking up ingredients for dinner at a gas station or a convenience store, you probably live in what eggheads have taken to calling a “food desert”—an ill-defined concept with powerful policy implications. A commonly cited 2009 statistic from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has 23.5 million Americans living in poor urban and rural areas with limited access to fresh food.
Making those food deserts bloom is a centerpiece of Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity agenda. This January found the first lady smiling for the cameras with Wal-Mart executives in Southeast Washington and declaring herself “more hopeful than ever” as she tours the nation’s produce sections.