Though millions of children in the United States suffer from food insecurity, a third of all children in the nation are obese or at risk of being obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that in 2008, only one state, Colorado, had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. These statistics present a seemingly great paradox. The high prevalence of obesity cannot simply be attributed to over-consumption of food, but rather the unavailability of healthy, nutritious food. Obesity largely impacts the low-income population, where affordable food is most often high in calories and fat and low in nutritional quality. Buying lower-quality, cheaper food is an easy way to stave off hunger on a low budget.
Statistics show that one in seven low-income, preschool-aged child is obese. The highest obesity prevalence was found among American Indians or Alaska Natives in 2008, at 21.2%—the most poverty-stricken group in the United States.
Catholic Social Teaching calls us to care especially for those who are most vulnerable and powerless. Low-income families are victims not only of food insecurity, but also of inadequate nutrition. With little financial security and a market that presents processed and fatty foods as cheaper than highly nutritious food, many low-income families cannot afford to live on healthy diets. Instead, these individuals have no choice but to purchase low-quality food that serves as a detriment to their health and wellbeing. Numerous health issues, such as obesity and diabetes, begin to threaten those with low income.
Those who cannot afford adequate nutrition deserve our special attention and concern. In a society that prizes health and wellbeing, our economy and policies do not reflect this priority. In order to confront the problems of obesity and malnutrition in the United States, we must make available and accessible nutritious, healthy food.