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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You donate it, but would you actually eat it?

(Ok, I'm getting on my soap box a bit here, so forgive my passion)

Every major city in Canada depends heavily on charitable organizations to provide food to people living in poverty. In Toronto, food banks serve about 60,000 people every month. More than 650,000 charitable meals are served every month in drop-ins, hostels and similar meal programs. Based on recent Toronto study, 20% of the $17 billion spent annually on health care in Ontario can be traced to diet-related health problems.
Yes we donate, but would you eat it? 
When we are called to donate we all do our best to fill the bins in the grocer, high schools and fire halls. Do we consider what we’re donating? I know those that donate cases of boxed mac & cheese, and of one person who admits that she would “never feed that to her own children” but she's ok to donate it. 

So why is it ok to donate crap food to the poor?

It’s an education when you accompany someone through the food bank, a box is prepared with mostly canned or boxed white pastas or rice, you get a limit of vegetables and frozen meats that have to last you a few meals or a week. I still can't believe what people are forced to live on.

This recent Canadian study(1) cites alarming rates of obesity are the ticking time bomb on our health care system with the poor being at the highest risk of: diabetes, heart disease and breast and colon cancers.

Kids in poor families have an alarming rate of obesity in Canada.
Fast food meals in a bag, or prepackaged boxed meals, feeds the family and if you’re a parent with 2-3 jobs and no time to cook, sometimes it feels like the only option. These meals offer little to no nutrition value, too much sodium and bad fats, compound this with no money for exercise programs, you have a generation of kids that will die before their parents. These ‘gut fill’ foods fill the belly but don’t nourish the body at all, they actually rob the body of vital nutrients.

Poor nutrition takes a toll on your physical health and your mind!
What's happening in the UK right now is a good example of the effect of poor nutrition on health and mental issues causing aggression in teenage girls. Violent teen-girl gangs are on the rise (2) and the newest threat on the streets. Roaming girl-gangs intimidate in numbers, push, mug, throw stones and knife, sometimes-innocent people without provocation. These girls are obese, rely on fast food and usually come from lower income families where parents aren't around due to job hours.

It’s no coincidence that the UK (but particularly Scotland) has one of the worst diets and one of the highest sugar consumption per person than anywhere else in the world and is experiencing this girl-gang phenomenon.
How can we wonder why these acts of violence are on the increase, when there are clear indicators of diet and aggression? As a society we’ve condemned these children to their fate.

This study from the American Journal of Psychiatry (3) states these issues with malnutrition start early in life “…children with malnutrition signs at age 3 years were more aggressive or hyperactive at age 8 years, had more externalizing problems at age 11, and had greater conduct disorder and excessive motor activity at age 17”.

Can this be plainer?
“If you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, sire, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”  Thomas Moore ‘Utopia’

As we see in here in Canada and in the UK, it’s the poor that pays the price with their health and the rest of us that pay the health care costs, with diseases we've helped give them.

What can you do?
Donate to your local food banks, of course, but have a bit of social consciousness when you fill up the donation bin. Reach for food that feed the body like: dried or canned legumes, canned vegetables, whole grain pasta, whole grain mixes, brown rice, olive oil and nut butters that are free of HFCS.

These healthy and inexpensive alternatives offers low-income families nutritional options that are more than gut fill. One can eat well and inexpensively on a vegetarian diet, $250 can feed a family of 4 for a month. Including fresh vegetables. If they are given the resources to eat this way, with socially conscious donations.

Education is key. Educate the poor on the benefits of a good diet and how to eat within an non-existent budget. Educate those that generously donate, even the corporations, on making more socially conscious decisions on donations. 

Everyone deserves to a healthy diet and a healthier life.


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