Supermarket Shelves

Doesn’t it feel as though every time we walk into a grocery store, we are susceptible to purchasing the myriad concoctions the food industry develops that line the shelves, such as Coca Cola Zero and Twinkies? Isn’t it also the case that these types of food may be somewhat less expensive than the healthier options we seek? Does that mean that we should be buying white bread instead of wheat bread and soda in place of water?

In this way, my goal here is to discuss some of the most prominent and visible effects of our food system–namely, obesity and food insecurity, which are two concepts that undeniably have widespread impacts across the country. I will attempt to underscore the important conversation surrounding this complex, dynamic relationship and attempt to unravel the somewhat antithetical interconnectedness that the two possess, in order to assess and compare the two concepts within the parameters of our food system.

Why do some regions in the United States have incredibly high rates of obesity at the same time that there is a growing number of food-insecure people in those regions? How does obesity, defined by the CDC as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher,relate to food insecurity, which is defined by the USDA to be “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life?” Some suggestthat food insecurity is a consequence of insufficient financial resources in the household, thus inhibiting those without adequate financial means from purchasing substantial, nutritious, and healthful foods to sustain their lives. In this way, the relationship between obesity and food insecurity is ultimately complex.

These maps illustrate obesity as a percent prevalence among males in 2001 (top) versus in 2011 (bottom). These data provide an example on just how drastically obesity rates have increased within the last several decades (IHME).

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