Monday, April 4, 2011

Sabotage City!

A couple of things occurred over the weekend that made me think a lot about access to healthy resources in our communities.  The first was was bantering with the friend of a friend on Facebook about obesity being a product of miseducation rather than personal choices, and the second was traveling across the south to visit my bestest girlfriends in semi-rural Mississippi.

My friend's friend made the assertion that obesity is less the fault of someone making destructive choices than the fault of the community at large for demonizing being overweight and not educating people about how to be healthy. I disagreed.  While education is important, ultimately it is the hand-to-mouth actions that we each take as independent adults that influence our weight, and it doesn't take an advanced degree to figure out that the path to wellness is not paved with doughnuts.  He countered that we should accept our country as a population of overeaters and overweight people.  I was incredulous.

Then I ventured outside of my insulated, utopic, upper-middle class environment and realized that I am a lucky, lucky lady.  I live in a community with at least three organic grocery stores, multiple weekly farmer's markets, health food stores and restaurants, and whole grain/gluten free/vegan/everything else you can imagine products on the shelves of my corner grocery store.  As I walked the aisles of a grocery store in this affluent north Mississippi community, it was very challenging to find products that met my personal standards for nutrition. Instead, I was surrounded by high-sugar, overly-processed, preservative-laden food...and the parents who buy it for their kids because they just don't have any other choice.  They live in a Sabotage City.  It made me so sad. 

And it made me so angry because how can our country get healthier when we can't even find healthy food in our grocery stores?  I do believe that you can shop and eat healthy even in a Sabotage City by eating clean: veggies, fruits, and lean meats.  I even blogged about it back in May of last year.  But with kids in the house, even the most staunchly healthy clean-eating families are likely not going to live on produce and lean meats alone.  They need access to whole grain breads, pastas, rice, cereals, and most importantly, the education necessary to know why its important to choose those products. 

When I got home yesterday, I went to the grocery store to stock up for the week ahead.  As I filled my buggy with the healthy products I had taken for granted, I was overwhelmed with frustration.  Bringing education about healthy choices to a community is vital...and providing access to healthy products is non-negotiable.  I still contend that our health is dictated by our choices.  We need better choices.  

How do we do that?  How can I help?



Jen said...

Great post! It's all about the education and then the means to be able to do what we know we should. I think having your own garden, even if it's in containers is something almost everyone can do and kids love to be involved in projects like that. Making your own bread or at least learning how to read labels and buying the best thing that's available is also something everyone can do. It's the desire that's lacking in a lot of people. Sometimes even in myself. Convenience rules our lives sometimes.

E. Peterman said...

Great post, lady. There are some sketchy grocery stores in my hometown where you can't find wheat flour or organic anything. There are the basics - fruit and veggies, beans, lean meats - but it takes a lot more effort to prepare and eat healthful meals under the circumstances. I guess the key is educate people and show them that a little extra work is worth it to preserve their health.

Ellen said...

I've read a multitude of articles that indicate that so many of our fellow citizens don't know how to cook.

Unless that basic cooking knowledge exists, even access to vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains won't be much benefit.

Bring back Home Ec!

Pam said...

I live in very similar rural TN. If Walmart or Kroger doesn't have it, you don't get it. We are two hours from the nearest Whole Foods. Kroger has started carrying more organic and healthier options, but I couldn't even find 100% whole wheat tortillas when I was grocery shopping last weekend--at either store. I do the best I can with what I have to work with, but it's difficult. I've been looking for a couple of years, and I JUST NOW found a bbq sauce with no HFCS (Annie's Naturals). The Kroger in a town in KY about half an hour from me had it in their slightly larger natural foods section. I've sent emails to Kroger's corporate voicing my opinion and asking for a larger natural/organic selection in my home town (I have to drive to the one in KY to get organic beef), but my requests seem to fall on deaf ears.

The (not so) Reluctant Athlete said...

Pam, that is so depressing! I was at the grocery store this morning thinking about what you wrote and just shaking my head at the enormity of the problem. I really hope you can get to someone who cares and listens to what our families need for nutrition in our communities.

Pam said...

This is what's so sad, Heather: The grocery stores are simply catering to the masses. Take the tortillas, for instance. Kroger USED to carry 100% whole wheat tortillas. It was a brand called Wrap-Itz. When I couldn't find them last weekend I asked an associate about it and they told me they probably stopped carrying them because they didn't sell well. Same goes for the organic meat. I can occasionally find organic chicken there, but it's hit or miss. The guy in the meat department told me they don't order much because it doesn't sell well. And they just NEVER get the organic beef. They're giving the majority of their customers what they want. Supply and demand. And until more people start demanding healthier options, nothing is going to change. Everyone is scared to come off a couple extra bucks for the good stuff, and to hell with the health risks. For now I'll just keep driving to KY and stocking up on shelf-stable stuff any time I'm in Nashville where I can go to Whole Foods. Maybe someday.