Recent studies show that wealthier countries have higher obesity rates, and this proves true with the economy growing hand in hand with increasing obesity in India and China. The United States is considered one of the wealthiest countries and to also have one of the highest obesity rates in the world.
An article on Poverty and Obesity in the U.S. argues that poverty and obesity are associated for various reasons. One fact that is hard to ignore is that 43% of households with incomes below the poverty line ($21,756 annual income) are “food insecure”, which means they aren’t always sure where they will find their next meal.
To put this into a local perspective, Oak Park is a designated “food desert”, or an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality food. Food deserts have an absence of stores which provide fresh and healthy food or the only stores which offer fruits, vegetables and meat are far from homes and not accessible via public transit.
Raquel Hernandez, an Oak Park resident and Mexico native, finds it hard to get healthy food in Oak Park.
“I don’t drive, and sometimes I have no one to drive me to the store,” says Hernandez. “The closest place to get healthy foods is Food Source. That is a pretty far walk.”
There might be closer alternatives, but Hernandez doesn’t always feel safe walking to them.
“I’m elderly already and the only place (to get healthy food) is the WIC, but I don’t feel safe walking over,” said Hernandez. “There’s a liquor store right in front of it, I just don’t like walking alone.”
Hernandez also believes that obesity and poverty are linked.
“When I first got here I had nothing at all, but I could go to any fast food place and get myself a burger for practically nothing,” recalls Hernandez. “The same can’t be said about a salad or about an orange juice.”
Hernandez knows that she is responsible for what she eats, but her dietary choices have caused her huge health issues.
“I know no one forces me to eat anything, but since I don’t have a lot of money I usually buy the cheaper things to eat. This has caused serious health issues for me. I have blood pressure and heart problems. Things I didn’t have while in Mexico.”