I sliced three tomatoes, sprinkled a little bit of salt and a tiny bit of sugar on the slices. I enjoyed those tomatoes.
It is a contrast to the experience that a former student related to me years ago. Patrick was a big guy, with roots in California. He came by my office once in a while just to chat, mostly about San Diego.
In one of those chats, Patrick recalled the family's poverty when he was young. His mother, with barely any money to feed her kids, often bought macaroni and cheese packets that were on sale. The kids ate a lot of them. Those empty calories made them big--but unhealthy. So, there he was as a young man, but with plenty of health issues.
Increasingly, the paradox is that poorer people tend to be more obese than rich people are. It is not merely an American experience; The Economist reports about such a situation in the UK:
Poor children have been fatter than rich ones since around the 1980s. But over the past decade the rich have started to slim down, as the poor have got bigger.
It is not difficult to understand some of the reasons, like this:
People have a limited amount of mental capacity to think about their problems, argues Hugo Harper of the Behavioural Insights Team, a part-publicly owned think-tank which co-authored a recent report on the subject with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. Parents concerned about paying rent and keeping the electricity on are thus less likely to think about cooking a healthy dinner.Yep, that was my student's story as well--his mother was more worried about making sure they did not become homeless, and less concerned about healthy food.
So, what can be done?
But the underlying causes of childhood obesity are fiendishly tricky to fix. As Sir Michael Marmot, head of University College London’s Institute of Health Equity, puts it: “If you want to solve the obesity problem, you have to solve the inequality problem first.”It might seem strange, but it is true that one can get fast-food that is less expensive than apples and oranges.
All these remind me of the poem that I learnt during the Tanzania trip: