Saturday, 27 July 2013

Food desert conundrum

I've struggled to grasp the food desert principle beyond the elementary. And for that matter, poor people's purported lack of nutritional knowledge versus middle class people supposed largesse of. This special knowledge is claimed to be responsible for a lesser 'obesity' rate amongst middle class people.

I'm not going to pretend I'm much the wiser, especially in a US context. Ironically the notion of  "nutritional superiority", has always struck me as indicative of the general dysfunctional relationship with food, often found in, for want of a better term, countries of Anglo Saxon origin/culture. Most people know SFA about nutrition, like an overriding disgust of calorie restriction that's the norm not a sign of pathology. 

Nutritional knowledge is not required to have a balanced diet. Indeed, there's a point where too much of it gets in the way of the culinary arts. What's required is a familiarity with fresh foods how to prepare, use and preferably grow them, though that's not strictly necessary. A family that cooks and eats the stuff is best. Supported by a school system that reenforces that knowledge, even better.Feeding children properly and if possible, teaching them to grow stuff. Getting their hands in the earth. If they can teach some basic preparation and cookery, even better. Time tested combinations that complement each other and go together are often a good guide to balance.

If you grew up being fed the 'magic' stuff, unless you're desperate for endless conformation of faux superiority, you'd know this.

The "nutritional knowledge" idea as the basis of a balanced diet, is a product of an environment that has already ceased to re-enforce this. And I suspect that's the real point being made. Status.

I've never been comfortable nor convinced weight disparities amongst income streams occur purely or even firstly due to diet. It's notable that rates of fatness vary all over the world between the sexes. Rarely are percentages among nations the same for men as women. It's been recently suggested that the more unequal the relationships between them equals a greater disparity in weights.

Usually with women's being higher.

This is true in the UK. Women on lower incomes have almost twice the likelihood of being fat as the richest women. With men, the picture is more even all through. There's little disparity.

This suggests to me an influence of the kind of stresses that tend toward invoking fatness as a response, along with that meeting innate susceptibilities obviously. Lack of license/ freedom in behaviour and self expression. Repression and overlooking of one's emotions and focus those of others. Feeling or being trapped, hemmed in and frustrated by multiple thankless responsibilities. Being less valued and acknowledged as a person. Having to make do with a consistent pattern of inadequate meeting of your needs and the like. 

In a context of a regular supply of at least subsistence energy intake, as opposed to balanced or adequate nutrition.  

I feel the primary influence of class is contained in the term "food insecurity". This refers to those on low incomes struggling with a cycle of expenses which leaves them often lacking enough money to sustain the right amount of food between paychecks.

It's really life insecurity, food is a part of that. Insecurity of employment, social and on the job status, income and so on. I don't want to build a sob story here. I'm just saying modern society is in worldwide transition from manual, rural labour to the labour of the brain and nervous system. A bit like the shift from meat to cyberspace.

We are right now in the process of adapting to all this, fattening across society is part of that. It's also about increased health and lifespan, despite the adipocalypse testeria. And those struggling to get off the bottom can find they have worst of all worlds, in some ways. Producing a constant heightened but not crisis level anxiety and dissatisfaction that is unrelieved for not being critical.

To me, being on a low income was not in any way associated with not eating fresh produce, until I got to the internet. Nor was being fat associated in my mind with not eating thus either. If it is, its difficult for you to understand what it is to grow up with people for whom cooking mainly from fresh is the norm. It's not that I don't know people who's diet isn't overwhelmed with magic. It's more that they cannot be particularly marked out particularly as fat or slim.

That shouldn't be too untoward if you think of France and even a country like Japan, who embrace both healthy eating and calorie dense fast foods. That is how a lot of people who consume produce eat.
.......the organizations intended to help them the most are ignoring them. They say the NYC Greenmarket – the city’s largest farmer’s market supplier — doesn’t make it out anywhere near East New York with a full market because of a common assumption about low-income Americans: They aren’t interested in healthy food. They can’t afford to be interested in it. They don’t care.
This is what has always puzzled me. My parents generation and those that came a bit before them, were prepared to travel to get the ingredients they wanted. That's one of the reasons for the abundance of fruit and veg-of varying quality, but it's there nonetheless;
And, do you expect me to ride two hours, back and forth, into the city for Whole Foods? Am I supposed to go grocery shopping with two kids, and carry those groceries home… with two kids?”
The older generation thought little of spending more hours than that, every weekend and in between. I sulkily accompanied my mother many times on these expeditions at times bored out of my ingrate skull. Indeed, my mother happened to tell us, apropos of nothing years later, how her and her country mates would pool resources in earlier years. Travelling up to wholesale importers in other cities-with varying mixes of Jewish, Greek, Cypriot, Caribbean, African, East Asian, communities to get to even more of the stuff they expected to cook the foods they wanted-over whole Saturday's or Sunday's. Before I was born. After a week of hard often shift work. Buying in bulk, sharing it out, taking turns to go as only someone had a car.

I'm not trying to judge others. I do wonder what the landscape would be like if it was up to my generation. But it does require some real sustained enthusiasm to get this kind of stuff in your locale, if its not there. And it doesn't happen overnight either.

The US's discourse on this is not my place to sit in judgement. It's a worthwhile idea that the means of a good life, should be on everyone's doorstep. I agree. I'm sure if it was, people would use it and appreciate it. There seemed to be a time when it was more often. Major supermarkets withdrew from low income urban centres and to open large superstores on the outskirts of town.

I live in the heart of the city. And it's not very far from here where provision can become surprisingly sparse. Location, i.e rural settings, social isolation and environmental problems also plays a part. The fall in giving working class kids skills and educational aspirations haven't helped. The out of touch bourgeoise left undoubtedly needs to get its act together on that. One suspects a certain instinctive, pulling up of the drawbridge on previously expanding middle class. Rather like the embrace of 'obesity' is an attack on the aspiration of certain people.

We must all face the fact that good food culture is that, its a culture. It's not individualistic and never has been.

There are always universally popular favourites, which rarely live up/down to extreme nutritional dictates despite fauxtesters who claim to be above everyone else. Even if they are, check out the proportions of some of their favourite restaurant dishes or favourite health food snacks.

There's a missing sense that partaking of the type of much critiqued fasts foods is somewhat about feelings of social inclusion. There's the question of the effects of food stamps and food banks too.

Then there's another factor, kids use pester power. Adults eat can try to eat what meets their needs as the only freedom or room for manoeuvre they have.

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