Impacts/Effects of an Inadequate Diet

Recent research suggests that many of Detroit’s children are consuming “foods” which do not promote optimal health.  The study indicated that many children are getting energy primarily from powdered fruit flavored drinks. Children who do not have an adequate diet perform poorly in school because they are absent more due to illness, have shorter attention spans, retain less, and often exhibit inappropriate behaviors.

Far too many children and adults are overweight or obese and as a result suffer from poor self-esteem, lack of energy, social challenges and various health problems.  Obesity should be of major concern in the city of Detroit.  Clearly, at the heart of efforts to address obesity must be the understanding that this is a cultural phenomenon that is deep rooted in the habits that have been developed by post World War II generations of the American populace and federal policies that greatly subsidize less healthy processed foods making them abundant and cheap over fresh produce.

The movement towards convenience slowly led families away from the preparation of fresh foods that sustained health and wellness, to pre-packaged, instant foods that reduced the time spent in kitchens, but compromised nutrition.  That downward spiral has continued with the proliferation of “fast food” restaurants throughout the city of Detroit.  Many families get significant percentages of their food from such establishments.  Research has shown that the fat contained in burgers and fries contribute significantly to obesity in children and adults.  The tendency of those establishments to “supersize” their product has led to over-consumption, and again contributes to obesity and poor health.

Many Detroiters suffer from illnesses that could be prevented or controlled by improved eating habits including hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.  It has been suggested that certain cancers may be caused by nitrates and nitrites in processing meats that are used frequently in the African-American community such as smoked meats, bacon, sausage and lunch meat.  African American communities also face higher risk from diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, and other diet-related illnesses.

The elderly, whose health is often more fragile than young and middle-aged people, are even more adversely impacted by poor diet and nutrition.  Poor diet accelerates the aging process, contributing to degeneration of internal organs and mental capacity.

Culture is dynamic, and it can’t be created or altered by individuals.  Creating culture is a collective venture.  Impacting the lifestyle habits that contribute to obesity and poor health will require the commitment of the City of Detroit and a broad cross-section of the institutions, families and individual members of our communities.

Actions Needed:

  • Conduct research specific to the population of the city of Detroit to quantify rates of malnourished, overweight and obese children and adults, as well as rates of diet-related diseases and dental problems of youth.  Set in place mechanisms to track or monitor the rates over time.
  • Educate the public and policy-makers on this issue to bring attention to the scope of the issue and the immediacy needed in seeking solutions.
  • Research and address cultural barriers to improving eating habits.
  • Provide and promote opportunities for shared meal preparations at Community Kitchens, and growing more fresh fruits and vegetables in backyards and within neighborhoods.

Explore The Detroit Food Policy

The Detroit Food Policy was unanimously adopted by the Detroit City Council on March 15, 2008

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