Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesdays at Greenleaf - STUDENT INSIGHTS

Each Greenleaf meeting begins with a quote which is discussed by students. Tuesday was no different and the quote that we discussed is written below.

All people are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

An undeniably powerful quote which the Denver Venture School students digested with ease. I am continually impressed with the insight of these students and the new and wonderful ideas that they bring to the table. There is nothing more exciting then seeing the youth of today and the leaders of tomorrow exceed my wildest expectations. -- Back to the quote.

The students unpacked the quote and quickly related it to the food system. One student related our indirect impacts on each other to that of the predator - prey relationship seen within nature; how removing an animal or plant can wreak havoc on an ecosystem and the need to find a new homeostatic balance. Another student followed up by talking about how the the potential perils of the monoculture/industrial agriculture system (albeit unknowingly) have a magnified impact on our population because the scale is so big. I believe the recent Salmonella and E. Coli outbreaks and Irish Potato famine were mentioned. More discussion followed.

In the end we decided that we all need to work to fulfill our full potential while having a positive impact on the earth as students, neighbors and businesses. For some that might mean working harder in class and for others that may mean working to change farming practices so that our necessity to feed the worlds population does not have a negative impact on laborers, our land and our health.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What America's Most Obese Metro Areas Have in Common

Today an article authored by Elizabeth Mendes discussed the results of a recent poll administered by Gallup and Healthways. The Gallup and Healthways survey, administered in 2008, looked at 187 large metroplitian areas and their rates of obesity. After conducting the survey they whittled down the information to look at the ten metropolitan areas with the highest obesity rates and looked for commonalities within the data. What is driving obesity in these areas?

The findings are not surprising - "Gallup and Healthways measure healthy behaviors in the United States by combining four metrics measuring Americans' eating, exercise, and smoking habits into the Healthy Behaviors Index. ...all of the 10 most obese metro areas fall within the bottom two-thirds of all areas surveyed for frequent exercise. In terms of eating habits, of the 10 most obese places, seven are in the bottom two-thirds among all metro areas for reporting eating healthy "yesterday" and for fruit and vegetable consumption."

However they are kind enough to unpack the data, if only slightly, for us. "Eight of the 10 most obese areas rank in the bottom two-thirds of all places measured in terms of easy access to fruits and vegetables and nine rank in the bottom two-thirds for having a safe place to exercise. Seven of the 10 most obese metro areas are among the bottom 25 places where residents say that there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their family."

The article leads to the logical conclusion that obese people (each of these 10 cities has obesity rates greater than 33%) do not eat the prescribed (USDA) amount of fruits and vegetables, do not make healthy eating choices, and they are excercising at far lower rates than the average American. However, according to the survey, they have less access to healthy food, a real or percieved inability to access safe places for excercise, and often lack the money to purchase healthy food on a regular basis.

Hard to access healthy foods + Lack of money to purchase food for basic nutrition + Lack of access to safe excercise locations = Less excercise + Poor Nutrition = OBESITY

I can say with confidence that these problems are not unique to our ten most obese metropolian areas, rather, these figures could be found by surveying many of the low income neighborhoods within healthier cities. Obesity and lack of access to healthy foods have huge costs and will need many solutions. I'm excited to work with GREENLEAF students at the Denver Venture School to discuss these issues, the impacts in their communities and to brainstorm, advocate, and participate with students to create solutions. It is time to tap our youths knowledge and insight as we move forward in addressing these problems.