Two sides of the same coin

doughnut“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” Dom Hélder Câmara.

Walking along the road at the moment, I’m finding myself more than usually aware of the food litter which is left in the street.

It’s primarily wrappings from cheap food, and that reminds me of how easy it is to get hold of relatively inexpensive foodstuffs, which satisfy some immediate cravings for salt and sugar in particular.

But the flip side of this cheap food is that what it really does is further increase the body’s cravings for more of the same – the empty calories in a high fat, high sugar item for example don’t give the body what it needs.

It makes me wonder if this is why hunger and obesity are two sides of the same coin in our society.

Those who I speak to who have experienced genuine food poverty are often not immediately identifiable as people who have gone without food. And yet I was speaking only this morning to a mother who told me how, on and off for nearly a year she had to skip meals altogether, or eat a slice of toast at family meal times in order to be able to feed her children properly. That particular lady does not look starved.

There is an epidemic of effectively toxic food in our society, highly processed, often lacking in any kind of nutritional value and full of addictive sugars, fats and salt. Coincidentally enough the off the shelf products are often at or close to the delicious 50% fat 50% sugar ratio which seems to be uniquely irresistible.

And processed food is cheap, relatively at least. For your pound you can get what appears to be a lot more from a packet of something than you can from vegetables, and for a lot less effort. But these foods are cleverly designed to addict their consumers, who like any addict want the same thing more and more often.

This again is another form of profiteering from hunger – make food appear cheap and yet ensuring that it leaves its consumer hungry for more.

A friend who works in maternal health notes that the biggest problem faced by those in his profession is obesity in young women. This is responsible for many of the problems that health professionals face, and yet it is a problem allowed to grow more or less unchecked under the guise of ‘personal choice’.

But the issue is huge, drawing as it does on a form of oppression of the underclass.  Recognition by multinationals that lack of awareness and education is often a characteristic of the less well-off means simple marketing can leave people hooked on empty calories and growing more and more unwell as a result.

Not only does this put a massive corporate burden on the NHS, but it also leads, in individuals, to the kind of food cravings which drive impulse buying. Impulse buying in itself is one of the causes of individual and family budget failures, and leads, directly, to poverty and hunger.

Those wrappers, I now recognise, are not only a symptom of over consumption, they are also a cause of hunger.

Read the first blog reflecting on my fast here, and get involved with the End Hunger Fast campaign here.

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3 thoughts on “Two sides of the same coin

  1. There is, as you say, an epidemic of toxic cheap highly processed food and it is getting harder to avoid as all major supermarkets go out of their way to effectively blanket all areas with special offers on chocolate, biscuits, crisps, sugar cereals. That fact will only change when the large supermarkets and the manufacturers are shamed into taking social responsibility for their part in the obesity/hunger crisis. We need a nationwide campaign to demand that supermarkets stop this kind of blanket bombing of consumers because we can’t all afford to vote with our feet.

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