New Study Shows Diets of Poor Americans Getting Worse

New Study Shows Diets of Poor Americans Getting Worse

9/3/2014 11:43 AM

In this blog, we often remind people to “celebrate their choices” when it comes to purchasing fruits and vegetables.  It seems that most of us enjoy a plethora of options – organic, local, conventionally grown purchased at our favorite local grocer, warehouse store, farmers’ market or CSA.  Then you read today’s Washington Post  blog concerning a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which found that America's wealthiest people are eating better, while its poorest are eating worse.  And you realize what a luxury it is to have such a wide variety of choices. 

This study measured the quality of diets among American adults between 1999 and 2010. Among the findings: "Socioeconomic status was associated strongly with dietary quality, and the gaps in dietary quality between higher and lower SES [socioeconomic status] widened over time."

"Price is a major determinant of food choice, and healthful foods generally cost more than unhealthful foods in the United States," the study said. “A significant portion of the U.S. population has enough trouble feeding itself any food with 15 percent of the U.S. population and 17 percent of U.S. households categorized as food ‘insecure,’ according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which means that they occasionally run out of money for food, or food entirely.”

Among the foods the poorer populations are lacking – fruits and veggies.  And, there is no doubt that conventionally grown produce is the more affordable and accessible choice for Americans on a limited income.  This is one of the reasons why the Alliance for Food and Farming has repeatedly asked certain groups to discontinue their practice of inaccurately calling conventionally grown produce, “toxic,” “contaminated,” “dirty” or “doused with pesticides.”  Especially since the JAMA study shows that processed foods are often more enticing for hungry families because of their cheap price tag and availability.  Isn't it a logical assumption that if you hear that the only fruits or veggies available to your family are “toxic” or “contaminated” then reaching for that boxed pasta becomes an easier choice?

When we make those “asks” to stop the baseless disparagement of conventionally grown produce we are met with disdain as well as claims by these groups that calling produce “dirty” isn’t making people reach for junk foods and it isn’t discouraging consumption.  But, really, how can this disparagement of healthy foods be helpful to advancing public health initiatives to improve the diets of Americans?  

Wouldn’t it be better to join with health experts, nutritionists, the government and the First Lady in simply promoting consumption of either organic or conventional fruits and veggies, especially since the science clearly shows that both are very safe and we should all be eating more each day? 

So, in light of this new JAMA study, we’ll make the “ask” again to organizations like the Environmental Working Group.  Please stop calling popular produce items “dirty.” And, please stop disparaging the healthy and safe fruit and vegetables that farmers work hard every day to provide for American consumers.  We don’t know why you continue this practice and who it benefits, but it certainly isn’t consumers, especially those with limited incomes.

Read, learn, choose but eat more conventional and organic produce for better health and a longer life.

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