The article by Sarah Chacko brings to light a paradox of nutrition, health and poverty that results in millions being simultaneously overfed and undernourished, a common condition in my state:
"Poor nutrition is linked to many health issues that are especially prevalent in low-income populations.Families often turn to food banks, churches and other nonprofit organizations to supplement their monthly food needs. But nutritionists question the types of food poor families are getting.In 2007, 65 percent of adults in Louisiana were overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta."[snip]
"Carol E. O’Neil, a professor of human ecology at LSU, said she and other professors researched the diets of a group of lower-income women. She called the results 'appalling.'
“'They’re setting themselves up for some sort of dietary failure,' O’Neil said. 'Foods that are recommended as being healthy, like fish, are expensive. It takes a fair amount of skill to put together a balanced diet with not a lot of money.'”
"A fair amount of skill" is another way of saying "culture," which has been responsible until recently for transferring the skills of self-sufficiency from those who inherited and honed them over lifetimes to the younger generations in need of them.
Since my grandfather's time (i.e., Brokaw's Greatest Generation), American social movement has been toward greater mobility, urbanization, and careerism---three trends that explain most of my personal history, and of course my father's, and his father's. The result is perhaps a greater wealth per capita, in terms of merchandise and cheap transportation, but a clear loss of cultural wisdom that would have made life with less stuff and fewer escape routes a possibility.
Put another way, now that the chickens have come home to roost, we no longer raise chickens and don't know how. It's a kind of cultural poverty, shared by the cash-poor and the rich alike.
It's not a problem you can solve with money alone. Fortunately, some of the same programs that seek to pay our way out of poverty suggest other possibilities. As Chacko notes:
"Aside from groceries, food stamps can be used to purchase seeds and seedlings...
"A significant increase in seed sales nationwide indicates a growing interest in gardening, said Bobby Fletcher Jr., assistant director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service.
"AgCenter staff and 'master gardeners' are available around the state to help people start gardens by showing them how to prepare a bed and care for gardens and by teaching them what produce will flourish in their area. The AgCenter is also teaming up with 4H programs to create community gardens at schools.
"Fletcher said students are more likely to eat what they grow. 'If we can start that at a younger age, over time, we can have a positive impact on childhood obesity and adult obesity,' Fletcher said. 'Personally, I think school and community gardens are going to be to this generation what Victory Gardens were to World War II.'”
My kids are, thanks largely to their mother, aware of the benefits of good nutrition. They know a surprising amount about fat, sugar and sodium contents, and the caloric values of different foods. But thankfully they also like good food. And for this, there's no substitute for eating it. Being able to share with them the growing (and hunting and cooking) of it adds that final and most important ingredient: culture.