Low income & its effect on healthy eating

Written by scott christ
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Low income & its effect on healthy eating
People in low income neighbourhoods don't always have access to healthy foods. (Poverty image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)

Most people who live in low-income areas have eating habits that are unhealthier than those of the general population. According to the Rudd Report published by Yale University in 2008, low-income individuals, minorities and people living in rural areas suffer the highest rates of preventable, diet-related diseases that are linked to unhealthy eating habits.

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Causes

According to the 2008 Rudd Report from Yale University, low-income areas have fewer supermarkets and grocery stores that carry healthy foods compared to higher income areas. Additionally, stores in lower income communities tend to stock less produce and have lower quality produce. Public transportation in these communities can be a barrier for some people to get access to healthy foods, and the cost associated with buying healthier food is another cause of unhealthy eating behaviours in low-income communities.

Effects

In 2009, two thirds of the American population were either overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Low-income communities, and minorities in particular, have higher rates of obesity and diabetes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the lack of affordable, healthy foods is directly linked to obesity and diabetes in low-income communities. Fast food restaurants are prevalent in low-income communities, and many people turn to this type of restaurant because of the cheap, convenient food; however, fast food only increases the problem.

Costs

According to a 2007 study published in the journal of the American Dietetic Association, lower income families would need to allocate 43 to 70 per cent of their weekly food budget to fruits and vegetables in order to satisfy the 2005 Dietary Guidelines (see health.gov) of five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The problem is being felt on a larger scale, as well. According to a 2009 CDC study, the annual health care costs associated with obesity in the United States have reached £95 billion.

Increasing Access

According to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, increased access to supermarkets in lower income communities is associated with lower BMI (body mass index) and obesity in children; while increased access to convenience stores, which is typically seen in lower income communities, results in higher BMI and obesity in children. There is a positive correlation between increased access to healthy foods and improvement in health of diets in low-income areas.

Prevention/Solution

At the state and federal level, urge your legislators to introduce tax incentive policies to supermarkets, develop affordable and efficient public transportation systems and create incentives to establish more farmer's markets that offer access to fresh, local foods. Urban farming is another way to transform potentially barren land into farming spaces that can feed people in low-income communities. Community supported agriculture, or "CSA" groups, allows people to come together and purchase weekly shares of healthy produce in groups to lower the costs.

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