Causes Of Childhood Obesity In America

America is a culture centred around consumption. After 9/11 shocked the nation George Bush implored the population to carry on as normal- go shopping, go to McDonalds, don’t be phased, be your true self.

Not to say that 9/11 spurred on Americans to consume more, just to not do anything differently. Childhood obesity in America is a ticking time-bomb. In 2012 over a 1/3 of adolescents and children were overweight or obese, obesity prevalence has tripled from 1971 to 2011 and is now the number one health concern amongst parents and healthcare professionals in the United States- more than drug abuse and smoking.

Overweight means having excess body weight from a combination of fat, muscle, bone or water, while obesity means excess body fat. The direct cause of obesity and being overweight is caloric imbalance- too few calories are expended for the amount that are consumed. But there are antecedent cultural and social norms that make this possible.


America is the richest country in the world. But it has startling rates of poverty; in 2013 45.3 million (14.5% of the population) were deemed in poverty. 14.7 million (19.9%) of children under 18 were in poverty. While this does mean there are children that will be underweight the abundance of resources in America means that when poor people do eat they are more likely to be consuming foods that are loaded with fats, sugars and carbohydrates- foods that are not conducive to a healthy diet. Food insecurity has risen 35% since the financial crash of 2008- 16.7 million children live in food insecure households.

‘Food Deserts’

A food desert is an urban neighbourhood or rural town without ready access to foods that are fresh, health and affordable. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores food deserts are served by fast food outlets and convenience stores. The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that 23.5 million people live in food deserts.

Institutional and Cultural Racism

Poverty and obesity are inherently linked. 13.5 million of the 23.5 million food desert dwellers are classed as low-income. Black people are twice as likely to by living in poverty as white people, Hispanic people are 3 times as likely. The rates of obesity for black children (20.2%) and Hispanic children (22.4%) are much greater than white children (14.3%). Poverty is a cause of obesity, but what causes poverty? Centuries of ingrained prejudice against an Other that is defined by race.

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