To better understand the link between poverty and obesity, do a quick mental exercise. Imagine yourself at the grocery store, walking up and down the aisles. You have $10 to spend and four people to feed for a couple days. How do you do it?
You stretch your dollar as far as you possibly can, and that means cheap pasta, white rice, mac-and-cheese, beans, peanut butter, maybe some cheese and the least expensive (which is the most fatty) ground beef. Fresh vegetables and fruit are comparatively pricey, so healthy produce must wait.
Or this: You live in an affordable apartment complex on the outskirts of Tucson and rely on the public bus or a bike for transportation. The closest grocery store is five miles away, and the nearest place to buy food is a fast-food joint and a convenience store, stocked with chips, sodas and processed food.
Nearly one-third of Arizona kids ages 10-17 are overweight or obese.
This figure should be shocking, but when considered in conjunction with poverty statistics for our state, it doesn't come as a surprise.
In a two-day series, the Star has focused on the connection between poverty and obesity, particularly on the toll it's taking on children who are showing up with diabetes, high blood pressure and other adult maladies.
There is a difference between food and nourishment: Food fills us up, but nourishment also provides the nutrition necessary for good health. Cheap food is often unhealthy, highly processed food.
It would be easy to simply proclaim that everyone should eat more vegetables and be done with it all, but the truth is sometimes people don't know what the healthiest choice, especially on a limited budget, is to make.
It's important for new parents to know how to get their children used to good food from the beginning.
In addition to being cheap and convenient, fast food and a lot of highly processed foods from the grocery store have high levels of fat, sugar and salt.
Adults who regularly eat this kind of food develop cravings for it, but adults are in control of their food choices and can say no.
Kids are another matter - they're typically not in charge of deciding what to eat. Kids who grow up eating salty, fatty and sugary foods develop a taste for it, which makes it harder for them to switch to nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
The Star's poverty and obesity project offers a range of healthy recipes, nutrition advice and practical tips for eating well on a budget.
This kind of information can help anyone, no matter their income, and we hope it will help our readers make healthy choices for themselves and their families.
Arizona Daily Star