Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inequity On The March-- Bad For Your Health


I was having a talk with Ken the other day about how so many businesses in his uptown Manhattan neighborhood had closed down and so many others are barely holding on. Here in L.A. discounters and low-profit margin stores are doing fine, as are stores that cater to the wealthy, but in the middle... not so good.

I came across a worrisome story in the Guardian yesterday about how struggling working-class families are eating less fruits and vegetables because of the economic downturn. That doesn't matter to an operation like Bain, focused on the quarter and no further, but for anyone worried about the long-term, this is very, very bad news for the health of the nation, whether it's the U.K. or the U.S. The one percent can eat all the fancy organic fruits and vegetables they want while working-class families are forced to consume the kinds of calories without nutrition that Big Agribusiness corporations thrive on.

Inner cities across America are devoid of grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables-- which has been correlated to a steep rise in obesity, cancer and diabetes, especially in children. According to The Urban Grocery Store Gap by Bruce Ferguson and Barbara Abell, the poorest neighborhoods typically have about 55% of the grocery square footage of the best-off neighborhoods. You know what a food desert is, right? "Food deserts are large geographic areas where mainstream grocery stores are scarce or missing. They are found predominantly in low-income areas, although not everyone living in a food desert is poor." To return to the Guardian report:
Lower income families in the UK have cut their consumption of fruit and vegetables by nearly a third in the wake of the recession and rising food prices, to just over half of the five-a-day portions that the government recommends for a healthy diet.

Households in the lowest tenth of incomes were buying only 2.7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day at the end of 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, while the average household continued to buy about four portions per person, according to statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). For lower income households, that represents a 30% decline in purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables since 2006.

These rates are likely to have declined yet further in the past year, as inflation has continued upwards and households across the board have seen real incomes shrink. Women are likely to be the worst hit by the fall, as research shows mothers tend to deny themselves meals to give more to their children.

"It's very bad news that people on lower incomes are now even less likely to get their five a day. We urgently need to look at this-- food and nutrition are at the centre of our national life," said Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow environment secretary.

The deterioration in the diets of those worst affected by the recession will be highlighted on Monday in a parliamentary debate on food, called by Labour. Opposition MPs want faster progress on the proposed grocery code adjudicator, which they said would help ensure fairness among supermarkets, suppliers and consumers, and ways to put a brake on food price inflation.

...Creagh said a debate on food was urgently needed, as rising food prices and poorer nutrition for those in lower income households were problems the coalition government had ignored.

She said: "It's an utter disgrace that we are the seventh richest country in the world, and yet we are seeing hundreds of thousands of people going hungry."

...Purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables declined most between 2007 and 2010, according to the Defra figures, which were published shortly before Christmas. The report also found people were buying less beef, lamb and fish, but increasing their purchases of cheaper meat such as bacon.

The day before, the Guardian did a general story on how the middle class is being squeezed, a situation very much like what we're experiencing here in the U.S. Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been raging about increasing income inequality for a long time and has been warning the country that democracy itself is being threatened as the rich get ever richer, the poor get drastically poorer, and the middle classes move down the economic ladder. And in the U.K., the Guardian article warns, "Millions of people on low-to-middle incomes face years of declining living standards and are seeing their hopes of home ownership disappear, a major report will conclude this week."
The study by the independent thinktank the Resolution Foundation questions whether the new phenomenon of falling living standards and lower aspirations will be reversed, even when the UK economy returns to robust health.

The report, entitled Growth Without Gain?, will suggest that those in the "squeezed middle" are losing out in the post-boom era, as the highest earners take more and more from the proceeds of limited growth and so-called "middle-skilled" jobs are replaced by advancing technology.

As a result, the current generation of hard-working individuals is being left dependent on lower-paid jobs in retail, hospitality and care and can no longer expect, as their parents did, to see their living standards rise as output expands.

Sound familiar? It should. And until American voters start replacing millionaires-- and servants of millionaires-- in Congress with proud working-class men and women, we're going to continue to be screwed. Who do you think is going to serve your interests better, hereditary multimillionaire Fred Upton (of the job-outsourcing Whirlpool fortune) or ordinary working-class Kalamazoo blue-collar military vet John Waltz? You want a better America for your children and grandchildren? Help replace Fred Upton and others like him with John Waltz and others like him-- here.

One more thing. Did you know garlic is the #1 most effective cancer-fighting vegetable?

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At 9:16 PM, Blogger Wraxtiorre said...

Yes, it is ferociously sad that our precious newsmedia seem all too ready to blames low-income kids for their obesity, but don't bother to show the kids finding the unhealthy foods they eat--because that would--OH--reveal how pitiful the prospects for healthy shopping are in their environment!


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