The question pops up at Loaves & Fishes fairly often. “If these individuals are going hungry, why do they all seem to be overweight?” The truth is – looks are deceiving. An individual struggling with excess weight can still be undernourished. Without the benefit of healthy food choices, those readily available low cost food choices, full of fats and sugars, can quickly become “the enemy”.Focus groups at Loaves & Fishes have helped to identify some reasons why low income families may choose foods that might be high in fats and sugars. If given a choice between a large box of cereal (that happens to be loaded with sugar) and a smaller box of a whole grain cereal, the chances are 80% that the family will choose the large box. After all, more is better, right? We also know that families are very reluctant to experiment with different food choices. Families often choose items that are most familiar, not wanting to “risk” the chance that a new food would not be enjoyed by the family.
Those behaviors may sound typical, but they exemplify some of the unique challenges that a low income family will face in the fight against obesity. The Food Research and Action Center, a national anti-hunger organization in Washington DC, has documented several factors that can stack the deck against families that are experiencing food insecurity. On the list:
Take a look at a typical shopping cart leaving Loaves & Fishes, compared to the food choices that MyPlate recommends for a healthy diet. It is comforting to know that families who visit our grocery market are able to find fruits, vegetables and whole grains that can reduce the risk of obesity. Coupled with nutrition education and coping mechanisms for the tough times, we can go a long way to meet the obesity challenges for low-income families.
Director of Nutrition & Wellness