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Consequences of Food Deserts on Childhood Obesity

The emphasis on healthy eating is highly prevalent in our communities and media. Knowing that good diet is important for the prevention of obesity, as well as non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart attack), it is particularly important to begin healthy eating habits at home, as young as possible. However, it is not always possible for everyone to access food that would be better for their health and weight. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on the physical, social and emotional health of children. Those diagnosed have a higher risk of

  • Asthma

  • Sleep Apnea

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Heart Disease

  • They tend to be bullied more than peers of normal weigh ranges.

  • They are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

  • They are more likely to have obesity as an adult, which leads to further health problems and several types of cancer.

The two strongest ways to combat childhood obesity are, of course, diet and exercise. However, if you look into the communities where childhood obesity is highest, you will see a correlation between food deserts and obesity! Communities that are assigned as food deserts as defined as “an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food”. They are “vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas…largely due to a lack of grocery store, framers’ markets, and healthy food providers”. In place of these selections there are instead a wide range of quickie markets that have immense amounts of sugar and fat stuffed foods that are known to contribute to our obesity epidemic.

What these communities need is more than assistance, instead they need help in the form of a solution, not just a label. Perhaps financing zoning regulations that require stores or supermarkets to sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe starting local gardens and farmers’ markets where food is scarce. Encouraging small corner stores to carry a percentage of fresh food, by way of government subsidy or communal contribution.

The fact is that many people, particularly children, with obesity have very little options to change their diet. With the prices of heavily processed foods being typically lower than fresh foods, as well as the availability of fresh foods being lower than processed goods, their choices show a problem in our nation’s scattering of healthy food.

By Nzinga-Ain Barberousse

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