Food Environment / Junk Food / Soda

WalMart Ads and Profiting Off the Poor

walmartOnce again, WalMart published an ad with a junk food shopping list in our local paper (click on the photo to enlarge). While this shopper is posed in the produce aisle for the photo, there is not a single fresh fruit or vegetable on the list. As with the previous two WalMart grocery ads, this one is loaded with highly processed items like chips, soda, and frozen pizza.  WalMart is advertising the kinds of food that exacerbate the cycle of poverty.

Food assistance money often is used to buy more expensive prepared foods, not raw ingredients to cook from scratch. Microwaveable meals, frozen pizzas and soda pop can quickly eat up a monthly allotment while providing little nutritional value.

In the same paper the ad was published, there was a special section dedicated to the East End, a historically African-American neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky which is undergoing revitalization.   Corey Dunn, who grew up in the neighborhood and heads a community organizing group, had this to say.

East End is said to be a food desert, so nonprofits are looking to implement food trucks and force convenience-store owners to sell produce, without realizing East End residents go grocery shopping at big-box stores like everyone else. The area is not a food desert and is only labeled as such so people can push their agenda and profit off the poor.

I volunteer for one of those nonprofits and have spent a great deal of time and effort to get more produce in the neighborhood convenience stores.  Why? It is definitely not to profit off the poor.  The Good Neighbor Store Network is about working to reduce health disparities, especially the greater incidence of childhood obesity among African-American children.

Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson asked some tough questions about those health disparities.

Why is it, for example, that childhood obesity rates for African-American kids currently top 25 percent, compared to nearly 15 percent for whites? Why is it that African-American adults are twice as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes? Why are one in five African Americans uninsured? And why is it that black women in America are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women today?

Children in the East End cannot drive to a big box store on their own but many walk to the local convenience store to get snacks.  Children are told to make the healthy choice but often there is nothing healthy for them to choose.  As adults, we have the responsibility to change this and we have been working to do just that with the Better Bites program.  Now neighborhood children can choose local peaches from Reed Valley Orchard and other healthy snacks.  This wasn’t accomplished by forcing store owners to carry produce but finding store owners who were willing to help the community and supporting their efforts.

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was an opportunity to see how far we’ve come as a nation but also how much is left for us still to do.

As the anniversary renews attention on economic inequality, health disparity moves to the fore as well. African-Americans on average don’t live as long as whites. They have less access to private health care and healthy foods and are significantly more likely to suffer from an array of diseases and conditions, ranging from cancer and diabetes to high blood pressure and obesity.

A recent study also shed some light on this issue.

Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journal Science have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time…

Now that all of these perspectives have come together, the implications for how we think about poverty – and design programs for people impacted by it – are enormous. Solutions that make financial life easier for poor people don’t simply change their financial prospects. When a poor person receives a regular direct-deposited paycheck every Friday, that does more than simply relieve the worry over when money will come in next.

“When we do that, we liberate some bandwidth,” Shafir says. Policymakers tend to evaluate the success of financial programs aimed at the poor by measuring how they do financially. “The interesting thing about this perspective is that it says if I make your financial life easier, if I give you more bandwidth, what I really ought to look at is how you’re doing in your life. You might be doing better parenting. You might be adhering to your medication better.”

You might also find it easier to provide healthy food for your family and reduce those health disparities for future generations.  Especially if your local convenience store is a Good Neighbor Store and provides healthy options like Better Bites.

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