Carmel Health

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Epidemic Of Unhealthy Food

As a Health teacher it really inspires me when I hear of students taking the lessons learned in class and applying them elsewhere. The nutrition unit that we have just completed is one of the topics that seems to inspire many students and their families. At this time of year I receive emails from parents saying that they have changed their eating habits based on the advice of their child.
One of my students, Maggie, wrote a paper in English class about the problems that she saw facing America and attitudes to food. Please take the time to read her paper below and post some feedback as she becomes the second guest blogger on this site!

America has a diverse culture. It is a culture of many countries, all melded together. America is also a culture of food, as diverse as our origins. A culture of food that has now become reliant on the principle of convenience and quantity. A culture of food that is making us slowly grow fatter and fatter. This way of life now so common in our country must be reversed before it is too late. We need to get rid of this unhealthy balance for three reasons: for our health, for our economy, and for our communities.

Obesity in America has been on the rise at an alarming rate, especially in children. In 1985 less than 10% of Illinois’ population was obese. In 2009, 26.5% of the population was obese. That is a huge gain, but is still nothing compared to some other states, of which over 30% of the population is now obese. Our culture of fast food and high fructose corn syrup are causing us to grow bigger and bigger. If a person is obese, they’re often a few pounds heavier than the average person. But, the underlying problems of obesity are the most worrying. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Obesity reduces the average person’s life expectancy by 6 to 7 years. Eating such unhealthy food often leads to obesity, which can lead to deadly consequences.

Part of the reason America has become addicted to unhealthy foods is because it is so common in our economy today. The government heavily subsidizes corn, which leads to the heavy use of unhealthy sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. The average American consumes about 60 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup every year. It’s is most every kind of food imaginable, even ketchup. Since our unhealthy food is subsidized, it is often much more expensive to buy healthy food. The balance between healthy and unhealthy food has been upset, and we are now paying the price for it. For example, a burger at McDonalds can cost just $1, while the average price for a pound of strawberries is $1.50. Although that 50 cents may not seem like much, to a struggling family it can be the deal breaker.

This plague of unhealthy food deeply affects our communities. How many times have we seen small, family owned grocery stores go out of business, while the big superstores grow and grow? In those stores there is a plethora of unhealthy choices. It has also been found that the rate of obesity is higher in poorer communities, especially in immigrants. This clearly shows the endless loop of having to choose the cheap, unhealthy food and the consequences which leave the poor in even more poverty and with their health compromised. This in turn causes the poor to no longer to be able to pay for their medical bills, which often leads to the loss of their jobs and livelihood.
It is almost unavoidable to not consume unhealthy food. It is cheap, convenient, and everywhere we look. It is just disgusting when you think about it, and something needs to be done.
We need to start in our own school. It reflects the current attitude of our country today. We need to be able to ask for labels on our food, and make a wise and healthy decision. We need to re-balance the prices of food in our cafeteria, so that people don’t have to sacrifice healthy options just because they are expensive. We need to expand the time we have for lunch, so that we won’t just spend the time in a line for the healthy choices and spend more time eating. By starting in our own school, we can slowly spread our healthy habits to others, and hopefully reverse the epidemic of unhealthy eating that is all too common in our society today.

1 comment:

  1. Maggie, I was very impressed with your comments. You ask a lot of pertinent questions, many that seem like they have simple answers. I think it starts with education, of the people and also the decision makers.
    Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' returns to ABC next month. Check out the links and see how you can support his drive to improve food education here in America.