Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Obesity and Poverty

Believe it or not, poverty is a leading cause of obesity, which leads to increased health problems and a decreased life expectancy.

There is a statistical relationship between poverty and obesity in the U.S. (

In developing countries, where the issue is still hunger, there is also an issue of increasing obesity,
( ;

What does this mean? It means that if you live on a low income, you are more likely to be obese and thus to have a lower life expectancy and a lower quality of life. Obesity is increasingly not a lifestyle choice, but the result of limited choices.

Many of us consider obesity to be the result of overeating or of making poor choices in eating. This is still true for some, but most of the time when we see an obese person, it is because they are limited in their nutrition choices.

I have noticed that in most free meals that are offered the homeless and low income folks in the Portland area, the fat content is high, the carbs are high and the actual nutritional content is low. This is the same kind of choice that developing countries have. Many countries are importing the high fat, low nutrition choices the developed countries have rejected.

Supermarkets put on sale and make readily available at the end of aisles high calorie items that have little or no nutritive value. Thus, the genocide of the poor proceeds by allowing milk and eggs to increase in price, while Pepsi and Little Debbie cakes are more economically accessible. If you have a hundred or so dollars a month to spend on food, one would always make the choice to go for quantity rather than quality. Better one to eat sugar than to go hungry for a few days.

For those of us who are serving the poor, especially offering meals or food boxes, we need to think about what we give—not just that we have enough to give, but that we offer nutrition. Let’s make the attempt to offer dark greens, broccoli, low fat proteins and whole grains. Let’s avoid serving cakes, white bread, sodas and even most juices. Yes, the bad nutrition items are easier to get cheaply, but let’s not participate in the destruction those whom we are supposed to be assisting.


Richard Walden said...

Excellent post, Steve. I work at Sisters Of The Road, where we constantly wrestle with how to serve enjoyable, nutritional meals and still stay within our budget. Our staple menu item, (beans, rice, and cornbread) is, granted, not the most exciting meal in town, but it is high fiber, high protein, and low fat.

But even with awareness of the issue and a desire to do the right thing, this issue is a struggle.

Unfortunately, we still haven't figured out how to feed the multitudes with a handful of loaves and fishes.

Steve Kimes said...

Thanks Richard--

I LOVE the work of Sister's and everyone speaks well of you guys.

We all try to serve what is good, but it is sometimes hard with what's available. In my Gresham meal, I serve grilled sandwiches as well as other things, but I try to offer fruit and a green salad as well. Such "treats" aren't always taken, but at least the offer is given.

I think we need to pray that we are able to obtain better food to serve to those in need.