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Unhealthy meals are being pushed by restaurants in public housing developments

Harold Mandel's picture
Fast food

Findings that unhealthy meals are being pushed by restaurants in public housing developments are disturbing. Clearly, good nutrition is the single most important initial factor for good health in body and mind. The finding that there are not as many healthy meals served in restaurants in public housing developments as elsewhere implies the health and lives of poor people in such instances are being sacrificed for quick profits by such unscrupulous businesses.

Restaurants in public housing development neighborhoods offer less healthy entrées

Researchers decided to compare restaurant marketing by restaurant and neighborhood type, reports the American Journal of Health Behavior. In the public housing development neighborhoods there was lower income and a higher minority population than in comparison neighborhoods. The restaurants in public housing development neighborhoods had less healthy entrées than in comparison neighborhoods. Fast food restaurants were found to offer:

1: Cheaper beverages

2: More children's meals

3: Supersize drinks

4: Free prize with purchase

It was concluded that residents of lower socioeconomic neighborhoods appear to be differentially exposed to unhealthy food options.

The researchers found that restaurants in public housing developments serve less healthy meals and about 75 percent of the entrées are unhealthy, reports Kansas State University. This study found that when it comes to your making healthy food choices at restaurants, the location of the restaurant plays as much of a role in calories as what you eat.

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The researchers observed that about 75 percent of entrées served at restaurants located near housing developments contained too many calories and fats and not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Katie Heinrich, a Kansas State University assistant professor of kinesiology, has said, "There is the thought that people are unhealthy because they make poor choices, and that can certainly be true. But there is a huge influence from the environment that people are in that goes beyond individual responsibility." Heinrich goes on to point out that 75 percent of the time it's going to be way too easy to select an unhealthy entrée from a menu because the majority of a menu is made up of those unhealthy entrées.

Information dealing with body mass index, level of physical activity and nutritional habits, was also collected and analyzed among some neighborhood residents. The data also revealed that most of the residents in the housing developments were primarily African American and had lower income levels.

Aside from discovering that restaurants in housing developments had less options for healthy entrées, the researchers observed:

1: Fast-food restaurants used more "point-of-purchase" advertising, such as in-store advertising which presented options to supersize meal items, toys with purchase, mascots and other tactics which are aimed at younger consumers

2: Table-service restaurants offered more entrées and more healthy entrées than the fast-food restaurants

The quality of food available to public housing is significantly lower

There is significance to the finding that restaurants in housing developments had less options for healthy entrées. As Heinrich has pointed out if you go to a restaurant which has a few healthy choices and a lot of unhealthy choices, the chance of selecting an unhealthy entrée increases dramatically. This study showed that both higher income and low income neighborhoods had equal access to foods, but that the quality of food available to public housing was significantly lower.

One reason for the variance in available quality food between different neighborhoods is that fast food restaurants outnumber table service restaurants in the housing development neighborhoods. This imbalance can clearly influence residents who have financial constraints to spend their limited money on food which is not healthy. This creates a tragic problem due to a literal lack of opportunity for the residents in the poor neighborhoods to make healthy choices when eating.

It has always appeared to me that overall people from poor neighborhoods are not as well nourished as people in more affluent neighborhoods. Junk food joints appear to be located at every corner in the public housing neighborhoods. The owners of these places have a cornered market and are not likely to be pushed by competitive forces to offer healthier food which may not be as profitable to offer for low income families.

This therefore raises a serious public health concern for the people in the poorer neighborhoods. It will take a dramatic shift in attitudes in the fast food industry to realize a stress on healthier low cost food. The entire present situation paints a picture of the thriving economics of poverty in the poorer neighborhoods being a major part of the food industry with human health and lives literally being sacrificed for quick profits.



Oh my god, It is the evil companies that are FORCING poor quality food down peoples throats, usually at the point of a gun! Really? I guess personal responsibility truly is dead in this country. Those EVIL FOOD COMPANIES made me do it!
Of course they aren't forcing them at gun point. But when you don't make enough money to support your family and you don't have time to cook meals because of your job, its not a matter of personal responsibility its a matter of survival. Do you honestly think these low-income families would continue to only eat fast food if they had enough money and time? I highly doubt most of them would. Personal responsibility is not "truly dead," some people just don't have the option to eat healthier. And I wouldn't call the food companies "evil" persay, but they definitely put their profits ahead of the consumer's health and worker's livelihood and safety at any chance they get.