Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Innovative solution to obesity could help BVHP

Compared to more affluent neighborhoods, Bayview Hunters Point is off the charts when it comes to the obesity epidemic. The rest of the country may not be far behind.

Last month, researchers proposed a solution that would reverse a century of trends in favor of large scale agri-business. America should increase its regional food consumption, those researchers said, and each metropolitan area should obtain most of its nutrition from nearby.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 1980 and 2006 the percentage of obese teenagers in the United States grew from 5 to 18, while the percentage of pre-teens suffering from obesity increased from 7 to 17. These children often become overweight adults, susceptible to heart illness, Type 2 diabetes, strokes, and some forms of cancer.

MIT’s Collaborative Initiatives program, which uses systems analysis to study broad social issues, has concluded that obesity is widespread due to our national-scale system of food production and distribution. That system surrounds children, especially lower-income children, with high-calorie products.

90 percent of American food is processed, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, mixed with ingredients that can make food fattening.

While the “local food” solution may be familiar to progressive urban dwellers, the researchers from MIT and Columbia added an innovative urban planning suggestion. Local efforts, they said, should form a larger “Integrated Regional Foodshed” system, intended to lower the price and caloric content of food by lowering distances food must travel, from the farm to the dinner table.

While just one to two percent of all food consumed in the United States today is locally produced, that could change quickly if policies are adopted that drive investment toward “food terminals,” retail developments combining grocery stores with greenhouses, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other enterprises that can reverse city residents’ diminishing access to fresh produce.

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