What We Eat & Why

Posted by Quynh Nguyen on May 7th, 2012

Michelle Obama is concerned with obese children. The Food Network is airing specials about bedraggled mothers who take two buses just to buy overpriced potatoes. The food pyramid has been reinvented so many times, an Egyptian nutritionist wouldn’t recognize it. What we eat and why is on the minds of many.

In this article the myth-or-monster of the “food desert” is debunked by new studies claiming no causal relationship between food access and health – that is, the length one travels to a grocery store has no bearing on one’s ability (or lack thereof) to eat the food that store offers. The shocking realization that people living within half a mile of a Pathmark still suffer from obesity has turned this build-it-and-they-will-come movement on its head. While Michelle makes a valid point that neighborhoods lacking food outlets that don’t have a drive-thru need more whole food options, these new studies also speak the truth that proximity does not always equal access.

The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” rings true, especially when the horse in question has been taught that water isn’t for him – it’s for richer, more affluent horses that live in nicer stables. The big problem with these studies, whether they support or disprove that a lack of access equals a lack of adequate nutrition, is that they are attempting to give one convenient answer to a very complicated, uncomfortable question. You can find causality in anything – ten minutes surfing the internet will uncover the horrifying yet factually sound exclamation that sitting down, for ANY period of time, will kill you. While it may be true that those who die prematurely also sat down at some point in their lives, it does not isolate that sitting equals death.

Those involved in the conversation about the health of Americans in “food deserts” or elsewhere should know that while proximity to a farmer’s market is a factor, so is class division. So is a lack of education, in everything from nutrition to sexual health. So are innate personality traits like pride and stubbornness – the two things stopping the big talkers in this argument from admitting to the fact that while blaming this endemic on outside forces is convenient, our health is our problem, which means a lack thereof is also our fault.

Related Article: Food Desert Debate Heats Up With Mari Gallagher’s Response to the New York Time’s Article via the Chicago Tribune


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