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Child Obesity: How Does Income Effect Obesity?

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Childhood Obesity

Theresa A. Allen

ENG 122

Sarah Bowman

April 02, 2012

Child Obesity: How does Income Effect Obesity?

The loss of manufacturing jobs, the growth of a service economy, and the increasing

number of women in the labor force have been associated with a dramatic shift in family eating

habits, from the decline of the family dinner to the emerging importance of snacks and fast

foods. American children are getting fatter every day. This includes a variety of reasons such as

the lack of exercise, steady high calorie diet, and junk food. This problem affects many children

living within the United States, but children from low-income families are more at risk of

becoming obese. The reason, not only stems from their limited knowledge of healthy lifestyles

but the cost and availability of nutritious foods as well. According to the 2009 Pediatric Nutrition

Surveillance System data, nearly one- third of the 3.7 million low-income children aged two to

four years are surveyed were obese or overweight. In addition, 541,000 were obese. Also

according to the U.S. Census, in 2009, the number of U.S. people in poverty is the largest

number in the 51 year's poverty estimates have been published (U.S. Census, 2009). This is due

to low-income families generally have less access to both healthy food choices and opportunities

for physical activity. Many need nearby retail stores that provide healthy, affordable food, as do

many rural and predominantly minority communities. At the same time many low-income

communities lack or have restricted access to sidewalks, green space, parks, and recreation

centers that may be perceived as unsafe; all are possible barriers to leisure time to physical

activities (Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, 2009). According to (Black & Mackino,

2008) "While individual-level characteristics such as income, cultural preferences, and genetic

predisposition to geographic disparities in weight, neighborhood-level services and structures

that affect physical activity behaviors and dietary choices are emerging as important and

potentially modifiable loci for public health intervention."

Due to the changes in our economy, lack of income plays a factor in the rise of obesity.

Currently, child hood obesity is rising and will continue to have a tremendous effect on the way

life. It is argued that income does have an effect on childhood obesity. In 2006 study by

the Colorado Health Foundation titled the "Income, Education and Obesity" found that 25% of

Colorado children living in low-income households with an average income of $25,000 or less

were obese compared to 8% of the children in households with an income of $75,000 or more

who were obese (Colorado Health Foundation, 2006).

Many low-income families have just one parent, usually the mother who might be

working two jobs and may not have the time to cook a nutritious meal. Families headed by

women are disproportionately represented among the poor, the obese, and the food insecure.

Over 36 percent of families headed by unmarried women are food insecure, and children from

these families are more likely to be obese than children from two-parent families. Single parents

are often stretched for time and money, leaving little time and resources to devote to meal

planning and the preparation of healthy meals (Alexander, 2010). There are various fast foods

restaurants that provide cheap meals that will cause obesity. A low-income parent with a nearly

empty refrigerator or bare pantry is likely to be more concerned with filling his or her child's

belly with enough food than with proper child nutrition. Poor families that consistently lack

access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods often find themselves relying on

low-cost, high-calorie, and imperishable options to fill in the gap. A few examples are that

Burger King and Mac Donald's has values meals with cheeseburgers that are a dollar, which is

cheap for a low- income family that may live from paycheck to pay check. There are about 500

calories and fat in these meals, which will cause obesity if not eaten with in moderation.

The concept of "time poverty" addresses the difficult choices faced by lower-income

households. When it comes to diet selection, the common trade-off is between money and time.

The Thrifty Food Plan, a recommended diet, provides an illustration of the dilemma meeting

federal nutrition recommendations at the estimated cost of $27 per person per week (The

Department of Agricultural, 2003).While this price is attractive, it has been estimated that TFP

menus would require the commitment of 16 h of food preparation per week. By contrast, a

typical working American woman spends only 6 h per week,

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