Saturday, April 16, 2011

Can America's Urban Food Deserts Bloom?

As the blog article The Anthropology of Obesity featured on the Neuralanthropology website suggests, the recent rise in obesity worldwide can be attributed to different causes, depending on the framework of analysis. Some possible frameworks for examining the phenomenon of obesity are evolutionary perspectives, biocultural perspectives, and cultural perspectives.

In addition, all of these perspectives can be used to frame understandings of the social determinants of obesity, whether they are rooted in modern dietary changes, global economic practices (related to the global trade and distribution of food), or health behaviors.

However, whenever considering the claims made in any particular source of information, it is important to remember that all inquiry is limited. This means that to determine the validity of any information, considering what is left unexamined, is just as important as considering what is examined. In other words, every framework is partial - no one framework can encompass every aspect contained within a topic of inquiry.

That said, I would like to point out that although The Anthropology of Obesity states that, "obesity has become the plague of those most marginalized rather than an overindulgence of the rich. Economic status in the face of globalization has facilitated the increase of obesity through further marginalization of the poorest", it does not reveal how/why this is the case.

Luckily, much current research, as well as news commentaries, have shed light on the socio-structural linkages that exist between poverty and obesity. Many focus on what has come to be known as the blight of the "urban food desert", a widespread phenomenon that is creating obstacles to food security (availability and access to food) in low income, urban areas. The article Can America's Urban Food Deserts Bloom? does a good job explaining what a food desert is and how it contributes to obesity.

Lastly, it is always interesting to consider if, and how, current events impact our own lives. How does your local grocery fare in terms of its food selection and cost? Given your income, how does this affect your food choices and resulting health? Has this changed over the course of your life?

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