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?