On Saturday September 22, the Wetumpka Herald posted a column from Managing Editor Peggy Blackburn with the headline “Alabama is Fat and Hungry?” Here’s an excerpt:
One report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranks Alabama as fourth in adult obesity rate at 32 percent of the population.
That seems like a reasonable estimate, especially given the charts used in determining if a person’s weight is under, over or in the normal range. I know some muscular folks the charts actually gauge as overweight.
Contrarily, a report published by the Food Research and Action Center said 23.4 percent of the state’s residents reported that they couldn’t afford enough food for their families and also reported going hungry. That is the second highest percentage in the country.
It is difficult for me to reconcile the state being the fourth most obese while at the same time being the second hungriest.
The categories are so specific it seems unlikely any of the people in one group could qualify for the other. If the respondents are all different, that would mean only 45 percent of Alabamians are neither overeating nor starving.
I don’t say it’s impossible, but it seems odd.
Although we applaud the managing editor’s efforts to educate herself about obesity and poverty in Alabama, we felt her article mischaracterized the data. We sent this letter in response:
Dear Ms. Blackburn:
This email is in response to your column “Alabama is fat and hungry?” which was posted on Saturday.
Today it is quite common to be both hungry and obese.
Poverty causes hunger, and nearly 1 in 5 Alabamians live in poverty. Poor families contend with challenges like low wages, part-time work, and unemployment – factors that make it difficult to afford food.
Conversely, obesity impacts Alabamians of all walks of life. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in 2011, 31 percent of Alabama adults were obese.
The Food Research and Action Center cites some reasons why low-income people are especially prone to obesity, including:
• Many low-income communities lack full-service grocery stores but have a proliferation of convenience stores that do not stock fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
• Healthy, low fat food is more expensive than low cost, high calorie options.
• Low-income communities have fewer recreation options and higher rates of crime. These higher crime rates (or fear of crime) cause many families to keep their children indoors. Poor kids also do not have the same access to afterschool and summertime recreational activities and sports.
• Being poor is often stressful, which can result in disordered eating, reduced physical activity, and depression – all factors related to weight gain. In addition, hunger and/or poverty can cause production of a stress hormone that is associated with obesity.
The Alabama Poverty Project is a nonprofit resource center dedicated to reducing systemic poverty and its root causes across Alabama. APP educates citizens about poverty, motivates colleges and faith-based institutions to engage in poverty-reduction activities, and advocates for fact-based policy decisions statewide.
We invite Alabamians who are interested in learning more to visit our web site at www.alabamapossible.org.
Executive Director, Alabama Poverty Project