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Food and Hunger

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Hunger is generally defined as the distress or weakness that results from lack of food over a long period of time. Many nutritional experts regard hunger as being chronically inadequate nutritional intake due to insufficient incomes. According to Birch (1999) malnutrition is the end result of hunger, or an imbalance in the consumption of macronutrients and micronutrients. On the other hand, food security can be defined as access to enough food. Having food security means that one has access to plenty of healthy foods in abundance. However, there has been a recent concern of people lacking access to healthy foods which reduce the risks of getting health-related illnesses. One of the health related-diseases which have become a menace in developed countries is obesity. According to Drewnowski (1999), obesity is the abnormal accumulation of body fats which often result into health hazards. It is commonly understood that obesity occurs when energy intake surpasses energy use in the body. Obesity has become so rampant in the United States such that it has overburdened the healthcare system and strained the economic resources among other extensive social implications. Direct health costs and treatment services related to obesity have amounted into billions of dollars. According to the American Obesity Association, it is estimated that the direct health care costs of the obese has exceeded $100 billion. It is important to note that this figure excludes indirect costs. Much of this money is spent in the treatment of diabetes, coronary heart diseases and hypertension. Certain types of cancer are also obesity-related.

The obesity problem has caused many people, organizations and governments to take drastic measures in an attempt to avoid this pandemic. Nevertheless, food which is healthy for consumption has become increasingly expensive. This locks out families which are deemed as low-income earners. Since some of them use food stumps, they are left with no choice but to buy inexpensive foods that are often not healthy. The Food Stumps Program was introduced in the US so as to shield the poor from hunger. However, it is evident that fatty foods cost less than fruits and vegetables. As such, due to a restricted budget, poor families tend to buy cheaper foods which are often high in calories. A series of findings reported in May 6, 2008 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer ascertains the fact that there is a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity problems within the poor. Researchers within the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions determined that poor teens were more likely to be overweight than their counterparts from well-off families of the same age range due to budgetary constraints (Drewnowski, 1995).

All this anomalies arise due to the fact that there is a lack of adequate accessibility to healthy and nutritious foods. Poor neighborhoods are always full of fast food restaurants because they sell cheap junk foods as opposed to vegetables and fruits which are expensive. The media has also played a role in escalating this problem. Billions of dollars have been spent on advertisement of fast foods and fast-food restaurants which target kids.

The consumption of fast foods amongst kids has grown at an alarming rate. A research that was carried out in the United States indicated that the highest consumers of fast foods were kids with high household income levels, especially boys, older kids and those living in the south. This research indicated that kids with lowest levels were from the west, rural areas. Fast foods have a very high proportion of fats, sugar levels and carbohydrates as compared to fruits and vegetables. High consumption of fast foods is increased by the fact that fast-food restaurants are on the rise every now and then. A study which appeared in the January issue of pediatrics in 2002 showed that there has been a steady increase in the number of fast food restaurants, and in the marketing of fast foods since the late 1990s. Recent data shows that nearly 15 percent of kids in the US and almost a third of adults are obese (Drewnowski, 2004). This study supports the evidence that fast food contributes to obesity risk.

Research also indicates that the poor and the homeless are the main affected groups of people since they favor eating junk foods due to economic restraints on their budgets. It is imperative to note that junk food is energy dense food packed with lots of calories. A research that was carried out by Drewnowski in 2004 indicated that the energy cost of cookies was much lower than that of carrots. Similarly, soft drinks had a much lower energy cost as compared to orange juice. From these findings we can deduce that energy dense foods such as fats, added sugars and grains which are refined, commonly cost lower prices. Nevertheless, it is worth to note that these foods are usually not healthy and people who consume them cannot avoid being obese.

All this literature supports what can be termed as food choice constraint. This is a type of a model where an individual’s ability to buy healthy foods comes down as the income depreciates due to the fact that healthy foods or non energy dense foods are very costly. This means that the poor are left with no choice but to take in more energy at lower cost. This fact explains why poverty can lead to obesity and other related diseases.

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