In the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. More than one-third of U.S. adults and approximately 17% children and adolescents ages 2-19 years old are obese. Of all the countries in the world, the United States has the highest rate of obesity. This preventable disease has cost society an estimate $117 billion in direct prevention, diagnostic and treatment services related to weight.
Although this issue is not necessarily a secret, the amount of people suffering and dying from obesity continues to rise as our population increases. Urban communities suffer the most from obesity. Big cities such as New York have impoverished communities full of families living paycheck to paycheck, buying $1 McDonald’s burgers rather than a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods because it is more attainable for them. When walking through New York City, one can find a different fast food restaurant every few blocks. But in the poorer neighborhoods there will be fast food restaurants within mere feet of each other. The issue for most families in Urban areas is that they have a limited budget and time. Most families buy for price and quantity rather than quality. They prefer the easy inexpensive mechanically separated chicken nuggets to going home to bread and make their own chicken fingers. The reasons for this vary from being misinformed on a healthy diet, to being too tired and short on time, or even just plain laziness. But no matter the reason the obesity problem is very real and is getting out of control.
Unfortunately, the chances are slim and the feasible solutions are limited. The food and agricultural industries have no choice but to produce cheap, low quality products, with numerous preservatives to increase their shelf life in order to keep up with our rising population. Although it feeds all the mouths it has to, it is clearly having adverse effects. As Michael Pollan states in Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, “What an extraordinary achievement for a civilization: to have developed the one diet that reliably makes its people sick!” With that being said, cities and neighborhoods have and should continue take initiative to provide healthier eating options for their communities. Schools nationwide are making the effort to educate the youth on the importance of a balanced diet, as well as healthy eating alternatives. Although their parents are the ones purchasing their food, educating the youth may sculpt their eating habits and ultimately changing the way families eat. Even though natural and organic food options are a bit pricier, this trend continues to grow and each year these healthy food options are becoming more and more attainable for every community.