I can still see my mother walking up Palmetto Street, shopping bags in hand. Fresh green leafy things peaking out and over the sides.

Rain or shine, this was her daily routine. After her day’s work at the corner knitting mill — she worked part time to make ends meet — off she went to the produce store. There were many times when she took me along to help carry packages. The store had just about everything one would need to prepare a wholesome meal and that was just what she did — every weekday night.

We were poor, but there’s poor and then there’s poor. I never went to bed hungry. I would like to believe that the scene I described would be the norm for families all over the U.S. today in large cities and small, but I know better. A buck ain’t what it used to be — if you had one. A loaf of bread 15 cents, a quart of milk 13 cents. Hell, back then for $4 you could feed a family of six a nutritious meal.

So here’s my take on obesity. Too many families today neither have the time nor the money to prepare nutritious meals. Most parents who have jobs are working more hours then ever before, so families opt for foods that cook fast or don’t have to be cooked at all. Much of this food is fried and or processed to the point of being devoid of any nutritional value. Most do have plenty of salt and hydrogenated oils. Fried foods are high in indigestible fat. Add to that the consumption of sugar-based food and you have a recipe for disaster.

During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. Currently, more than 64 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese, according to results from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a 36 percent increase from 1980. An estimated 16 percent of children and adolescents ages 6–19 years are overweight. Tests done on 2-year-olds have found high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.

As the race to the bottom continues in the U.S. and elsewhere, it seems clear to me that poor nutrition and obesity go hand in glove with the current trends of global capitalism.

Looking at Americans through the eyes of some developing nations, an impression of us may be one of prosperity and good health. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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