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Weight Gain in the USA

Aug 8, 2008
USA Today reports five of the poorest states were in the top ten most obese states (Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia and Alabama) in America. In 2006 Mississippi was the first state to have 30% obesity among its population according to WebMd.com, it also has a high rate of poverty. USA Today also explains, poverty areas are generally unsafe which discourage children from playing outside, have few grocery stores which offer fruits and vegetables, and many housing developments in these areas are not built with sidewalks for exercise. All of these problems contribute to obesity, the poor are set up to fail to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Grocery shopping on than $18.00 a day for a family of four is already near impossible but if you want to eat right and be healthy, this task is impossible. This is the challenge families on food stamps are confronted with daily. A needy family of four can get up to $542.00 a month in food stamp assistance according to fns.usda.gov. Being a smart shopper is key when on this kind of budget. The protocol many poor adults follow is this, buy whatever is on sale, use coupons, buy in bulk and get as much generic as possible. What is not figured into this equation is healthy foods and fresh produce.

The typical middle class American family of four spends roughly $600.00 per month on food and more if the foods are organic, low fat, soy based or trans fat free. Often they do not think twice about spending a little extra money on an item if it will be healthier for them. For an impoverished family, the only thing they are worried about is stretching the budget as far as it will go, regardless of health benefits. For example, Ramen noodles are about ten cents a package which means a child can have one a day for a month for around $3.00. While parents are thinking this is a brilliant food item, they are not bothering to look at the nutritional values. One package of Ramen is equal to two servings. Each serving has 194 calories in it and 1960 mg of sodium (82% of our daily value). For many food stamp shoppers, fresh produce is a waste of money. If the item is not eaten right away it will go bad which means money was wasted. So instead they buy fruit snacks packed with sugar, pasta, rice, tacos and greasy chips. These are all things which can be bough for cheap and on a food stamp program and they will not go bad quickly.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and his wife decided to try and raise awareness about hunger and poverty. So they tried living on $21.00 a week (the food stamp budget in Oregon for a family of two). The governor quickly realized he would have to learn to do without organic foods, Swiss cheese, and one of his favorite lunch items low sodium Progresso soups. He quickly said yes though to Cup O'Noodles, generic peanut butter and half a banana. Workers from the Department of Health and Human Services offered him some advice to living on food stamps, look for low cost staple items. Some suggestions were, Ramen, macaroni and cheese, beans and rice. All of which were far from healthy choices.

The Federal Nutrition Assistance Program does its best to educate food stamp receivers on healthy living and nutrition but sadly they do not give more money to families to buy healthier items. One of the few ways families in poverty can get healthy meals is through the free lunch/breakfast programs in schools. For children who qualify, they will get a healthy lunch and/or breakfast due to the recent changes to school menus.

There is no denying poverty and obesity are linked. It is difficult to fix one problem without fixing the other. Each problem also snowballs into other problems such as healthcare costs, disability cases, and unemployment. Obesity is not just one problem requiring one simple solution, it is a whole mess of problems which need multiple solutions.
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