According to a recent report, the poorer you are, the more at risk you become for a host of weight-related issues. This information is nothing new: it’s practically common knowledge to associate being poor with less-healthy diets.
But a recent study by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute highlighted just how much of a role wealth plays in the general population’s health. When comparing two New York City boroughs, Manhattan and the Bronx, the differences in wealth and health were staggering despite being only a few subway stops apart.
Some of the key differences presented by the findings:
- Manhattan’s employment rate is 7% vs. the Bronx’s 12%
- 82% of Manhattan’s adults have completed come college vs. 42% in the Bronx
- 27% of Manhattan’s children live in poverty vs. 41% in the Bronx
- 36% of Manhattan’s restaurants are fast food compared with 63% in the Bronx
Is healthy food too expensive?
One of the arguments that subsists for unhealthy diets among the less wealthy is the prohibitive cost of purchasing healthy food. But is it really that expensive to eat healthy? Perhaps in the New York City area where food often has to be shipped, the cost of food can definitely be a prohibiting factor. Many New Yorkers lament that eating out is oftentimes substantially cheaper than grocery shopping.
But what is the excuse for the rest of the country? Farmers markets abound. Grocery specials are there every week. Creating a menu plan can often be the key to success in creating a budget, sticking to it, and still having enough to create healthy meals throughout the week. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?
Time constraints of the lower class
Sometimes, I believe it is not just the actual cost of food, but the cost of time that prevents the lower class from eating healthy. Eating healthy often requires time constraints that the lower class doesn’t have access to. Many lower-class workers often work several minimum wage jobs to make ends meet.
Stopping at a fast food chain for 29 cent burritos (what do they put in them?!) can often be cheaper—and faster—than planning out a gourmet healthy meal.
How the Government is Affecting People’s Health
Are the government subsidies really helping the lower class? Or are they simply contributing to the very problems the government is trying to solve: obesity?
While the USDA does not track consumption by food stamp recipients, it is widely known that most consumption of the lower class is not in the healthy arena. Many initiatives to limit food stamp purchases to those of the healthy variety have failed.
However, in WIC (Women, Infants and Children), purchases are restricted, but the limitations haven’t exactly garnered a shift toward healthy eating due to the imposed restrictions and countless limitations.
So what is the solution? How do we get our society to make the shift toward healthy eating? Perhaps the government has realized it can’t solve every problem.