Monday, September 02, 2013

Obesity In The Hood

Earlier this weekend, we were shopping at the Ikea in Carson, CA. It serves a polyglot clientele and I was struck by the number of morbidly obese, mid-20s women with kids walking, err, waddling the aisles. None of them had wedding rings, so feel free to insert the standard Scratching Post moralizing here. I spent a little time googling the issue and came up with this as the standard explanation.
After the 1992 riots, city government made it a priority to bring full-service grocery stores back to South and East L.A. neighborhoods, and though there were some successes, most of the stores that did open closed soon after. Now, there are 60 full-service grocery stores in South L.A. serving an average population of 22,156 residents per-store, compared to 57 stores in West L.A. that serve only 11,150 residents on average.

While the disparity in access to healthy food is undeniable, the potential solutions are more debatable – how can the city, and the residents of South and East L.A., attract grocery store chains?
Which is answered in the next two sentences.
Why can't a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's turn a profit in traditionally underserved areas? If they build the markets, will the customers come?
The analysis of the situation always assumes that the residents want to have a healthy diet, but don't have access to it. That seems to defy business logic. The numbers above show that if there was really a demand for the product, the stores would open. Grocery store chains are pretty sophisticated operations and they don't leave much on the table when it comes to making profit.

This parallels the education argument in the same neighborhoods. When poor performance is seen, all kinds of explanations are trotted out with the exception of: they just don't care.

That explanation would seem to fit all the facts.

Image from this post which itself has a related story.


Doo Doo Econ said...

In some cultures, big is beautiful.

It is only the myopic view of the centralized government that nudges us into attempting of judge others based on weight.

Another example of Big Brother pushing "multiculturalism" as long as it is their version.

Anonymous said...

Why can't Trader Joe or Whole Foods make it in neighborhoods where the household income is low? Because neither offer much in the way of bargains. And LA is not too keen in allowing Walmarts--that has food bargains AND fresh food--in. Also, as someone who works a 40 hour week with a 1.25 to 1.5 hour commute ONE WAY, I am just too darned tired when I get home to throw together a fresh salad with tasty heirloom tomatoes... oh, wait! I had to throw those out because they got all moldy...

K T Cat said...

I dunno, I had years of pretty wild schedules and practically unworkable commitments and we still managed to eat well. I understand what you're saying, though. When you're exhausted and hungry, insta-food is very appealing no matter the nutritional value.

K T Cat said...

DDE, I hadn't thought of that. The whole obesity-is-bad is a form of cultural imperialism.