About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why food?

There are a lot of social issues out there to put your passions and energies behind. Even if you narrowed your focus to issues in American cities, there would be hundreds of thousands of things to try to make better or to be outraged about. So, why food?

Why would access to nutritious food trump other social issues?

Because food and inadequate nutrition are incredibly connected to a host of other issues that impact the quality of life for low and high income Americans alike.

Food insecurity impacts a child's ability to learn and grow. Not having enough food at home can lead to trouble focusing in school, aggression/anger, and can impede physical and mental development.

The fact that most of what we eat travels for thousands of miles to get to us impacts our environment. That fact that most of it is highly processed and over packaged is also a drain on mother earth. Everything we eat affects our environment, and in the case of our current food culture the affect is harmful most of the time.

Education about food and health is also pretty basic, and it is surprising how little most people know about this fundamental part of personal health care. I've had to work pretty hard to learn about how what I eat affects my body, and I would still not consider myself any sort of expert on nutrition. The fact that most low-income Americans really do not have access to reliable and practical information about food doesn't make our education system look very good.

Lack of access to nutritious food has a major impact on our health care system. On my first post of this blog I wrote a little bit about how poverty, food insecurity, and obesity are linked. Obesity is a major concern. I was speaking to a nurse at a free clinic yesterday, and she told me she felt like "everyone" had diabetes these days. She said that a disturbing percentage of the clients she sees walking through the doors of her clinic - where they do not refuse anyone based on ability to pay- are overweight and suffering from heart problems or diabetes as a result. Now, this is purely anecdotal, but Diabetes is certainly on the rise. I found an article which explains the global Diabetes epidemic pretty well. The article asserts that since 1985, the number of people with diabetes worldwide has grown from 30 million to 230 million, and the World Diabetes Foundation estimates 3.5 million people die from the disease annually.

If that seems like a lot to you, check out this map of US obesity trends from the CDC which Jasmine suggested to me - it shows the spread of obesity and overweight across America since 1985. Its pretty disturbing. Look and that map and think about how much overweight is associated with diabetes. Then think about how much health care Diabetes requires. Think about how broken and over burdened our health care system is, and how many Americans are uninsured or under insured. Then check out the facts on the World Diabetes Foundation website. Do you see the one that says 80% of type 2 diabetes is preventable by changing diet, increasing physical activity and improving the living environment. ?

What would happen if we started eating better and cut down drastically on overweight, obesity, and diabetes in America?

I think our health care and education systems would be a lot stronger.

Unfortunately, the last month of eating well on $31/week has shown me that "eating better" is pretty complicated. What would it take to incite a mass movement of healthier eating?

Well, a cultural shift for one. People would have to learn how to cook nutritious foods, and they would have to have a lifestyle that allowed them the time to do it. Healthy food would need to be more accessible and more affordable. Processed food would have to become more taboo and less socially acceptable. People would have to care enough to put some effort into eating better and exercising, and those that did care enough would have to have the tools (time, for example) to make it feasible to even do that.

I'm down to start the revolution, but I'm pretty intimidated by what I'm up against. How about you?

1 comment:

  1. Doctor Levine (of the Mayo Clinic) has been doing research and has concluded that we are not sedentary animals so he has designed a treadmill with a computer desk. It is an interesting concept for those who sit at a computer for 8 hours a day...


    there was an interview on NPR but I don't seem to be able to find it.

    As a creature we are designed to expend energy in our pursuit of food, instead we sit around at work...