More Than A Choice

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Bethany Herold

Professor Robin Schofield

ENG 122 1N5

21 June 2014

More Than A Choice

Americans today are inclined to think about weight as a personal choice. It is presumed that people make the decision to either eat healthy food or junk food, and then it is their responsibility to live with the consequences. However, a significant amount of our population is at a great disadvantaged, for they are classified as impoverished. Shockingly, the most affected group of all is that of young and impoverished children. In order to keep their families fed, low-income parents rely on bulk, processed food. Because in reality, it costs more to eat a nutritionally balanced meal than it does to grab a few items from the dollar menu. Although subject to the same modern influences as other American kids, such as lack of exercise and enlarged portions, the children offamilies in poverty face unique challenges in adopting healthful behaviors that would normally prevent obesity.

Printed by The Southern Medical Association in 2007, the article “Correlation between High Risk Obesity Groups and Low Socioeconomic Status in School Children” was written by Victor Vieweg, MD, and numerous other authors of his academic standing. This article reviewed socioeconomical status (SES) and its relation to obese and overweight children. Through specific studies monitoring impoverished school aged children, the team uncovered successful correlations showing that this speculated connection is in fact valid. This article concluded by offering reasoning behind the issue at hand, and wrapped up with suggestions to change this continually growing and detrimental pattern. Based on factors such as finances and emotional and physical barriers that lead to obesity and weight problems for children in poverty, it can be hypothesized that these children are not simply lacking self-control, but instead are victims of their environment.

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Studies are beginning to show frequent and growing connections between the weight and obesity epidemic of children in correlation with family income status. According to a research study performed by Vieweg et al., “youths in a low socioeconomic category were more likely to be obese and less likely to eat a proper diet” (11). Several factors of poverty influence a family’s grocery shopping choice, and money is the primary determiner. When journalist Carey Polis researched a recent study, he found “[Junk] food [on average] is about $1.50 cheaper per day [than nutritious food]” and saves roughly “$550 per year” which is a large sum of money for an impoverished family (pars. 2). These families are required to spend as little as possible, and therefore rely on cheap, calorie filled foods that have lower nutritional value to feed their young.Lack of money can also prevent children from getting appropriate exercise, as registration fees, checkups, and equipment make sports a hefty expenditure. Participation fees alone can go up to one thousand dollars, and adding in the equipment, apparel and travel expenses, parents are looking at dollar amounts in the thousands (Kids Play USA Foundation, 2012). Cost of quality food and exercise can be straining on families of the middle-class rank, and is virtually impossible for those in poverty.

Aside from finances, a community can prevent under-privileged children from maintaining a healthy weight as location is crucial to both variety of food and exercise. While suburbs and rural areas have manyfull-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets, low-income communities usually have fast-food chains and cheap convenience stores in abundance. Children living in these neighborhoods generally have lack of access to decent parks, while crime and traffic are also major deterrents to playing outside. The lack of resources stretches as far schools for low-income children, and according to the UCLA Center to Eliminate Health Disparities “Students in low-income schools spend less time being active during physical education classes and are less likely to have recess, both of which are of great concern given the already limited opportunities for physical activity in their communities” (Barros et al., 2009).

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A child has little say regarding the world they are born into, and they have equally less control when determining their diets and exercise levels. Although primarily the responsibility of the parents, there are many actions that cities and school districts can take to aid the epidemic. By simply enforcing more physical activity time at schools, making lunches more nutritional, and better furnishing low-income areas with decent grocery stores and parks, community involvement can make a difference. Action must be taken now, because “obesity most commonly starts before adulthood and obesity-related problems are now an epidemic, interventions [in the school years] must become a high national priority” (Vieweg et al., 13).

Works Cited

Barros, R. M., Silver, E. J., & Stein, R. E. (2009). School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics, 123(2), 431-436.

Kids Play USA Foundation: Overview and Cost of Youth Sports. Kids Play USA Foundation. 2012. Web. 19 June 2014. <;

Polis, Carey. “Eating Healthy vs. Unhealthy Will Cost You $550 More Per Year, Study Reveals” The Huffington Post., Inc., 2 Dec. 2013. Web. 18 June 2014. <;

Vieweg, Victor R., et al. “Correlation Between High Risk Obesity Groups And Low Socioeconomic Status In School Children.” Southern Medical Journal 100.1 (2007): 8-13. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 June 2014. < direct=true&db=a9h&AN=23856882&site-ehost-live>


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