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Free Food Used to Tackle Obesity

Main Image 28 September 2016 | Adam Berry

Doctors in the US are using handouts of food to tackle obesity in a striking new move.

In neighbourhoods where takeaway food is more expensive than groceries, fruit and vegetables are being given to needy families for free.

Obesity Crisis Surging

The problem with obesity in America is not going away. At least 20% of people in every single state are obese – a huge statistic which is worrying for the country as a whole. The poorest areas tend to be those where obesity is at its highest, a paradoxical statement for some. The issue is that healthy food is more expensive than junk food, leaving residents forced to eat bad food to keep going.

Doctors have been concerned enough to start a new programme in Alabama, Florida, Delaware, and Illinois. There are also plans to keep it going to California, Texas, and Michigan. If it continues to be successful, others could be added to the list.

Food is now being used as a medicine against obesity. This could mean that healthy fruit and vegetables even become a prescription item, in a shocking move that illustrates just how bad the problem is. The issues with the supply chain mean that it is more cost-effective to buy meals at fast food outlets than to pick up fresh ingredients.

Tackling Health Problems

The idea behind this initiative is not just to tackle obesity, but other health problems too: diabetes and high blood pressure are at the top of the list.

The statistics are damning: one third of families that are already using food banks are doing so with a diabetes sufferer, and 58% of them have someone with high blood pressure at home. But 55% of food bank users say that they just aren’t getting any fresh fruit or vegetables.

The food banks may well be the first port of call in the US for battling hunger, but they are contributing to a far greater problem by handing out food that doesn’t contain the right nutrients. Now there is a definite move to try to ensure that healthy food is given to all of those in need, battling both hunger and obesity at the same time.

Many food process manufacturers in the US use a lot of additives in their products, as well as cheaper alternatives such as high fructose corn syrup, which are affecting the health of those who eat them regularly.

New Changes

Since August 2015, changes have been in place in Chicago, with six clinics signing up to the ‘Fresh Truck’ visits. These are organised by the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and they see fresh food being delivered directly to clinics so that sufferers can be referred for fruit and vegetables. More than 10,000 pounds have been given out so far, going to more than 3,200 households in the process.

There are 30 food banks working with health care providers across the US, and that figure looks set to rise with this latest round of success. Prescriptions are already being written in Delaware with food banks located at clinics, and two hospitals in Alabama and Florida have signed up to offer free lunches for children during the summer. These are available for any child with a relative in hospital, and the food is carefully balanced to offer a healthy meal.

'Food banks are trying to do better by providing fewer starches and carbs and more lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains,' said Dr Hilary Seligman, senior medical adviser for Feeding America. 'The nutritious foods that are expensive for our clients are also expensive for food banks. We're figuring out how we can do this and do it better.'

 

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