Yesterday's article by the Associated Press, included by newspapers and television stations around the country in their daily editions, was about the University Of Iowa's 'research' into childhood obesity. I use the word 'research' lightly, due to the sham formulas used by the university to try to discredit the widely held scientific data that poor children living in the United States do not get enough to eat, or enough nutritionally sound foods, and therefore end up becoming overweight.
Taking conventional formulas used to track obesity in poor children and tossing them out the window in favor of a completely baseless formula of their own, the 'study' reaches the conclusion that poor children are getting adequate nutrition, but comes to no conclusion as to why there is an obesity problem in poor children.
The timing of the 'report' itself is suspect, as it comes on the heels of calls by Congress to increase Food Stamp benefits to families living under the poverty line.
In coming to their in line with the administration's position 'report', the university used one of the most reprehensible, misleading, and factually baseless tactics to come to a false conclusion.
They asked the mothers of poor children " whether she had reduced the size of a meal due to lack of food or money, if her child skipped a meal because food wasn't available and if her child went hungry because she couldn't afford more food."
What mother would admit to any of these questions? Especially one that depends upon assistance programs for the very survival of their children? Would you admit to anyone that you could not afford to feed your child, or even that you could not afford to feed your child the foods they need to be nutritionally sound? The answer is no to both questions.
To add insult to injury, the university used data from 1999, almost 10 years old, to also base their calculations on. Oh please. In 1999, prices weren't skyrocketing out of control, the country wasn't heading into a recession, assistance programs hadn't been completely gutted as they are today, and food banks, designed to help supplement the diets of poor people, had food to give away.
The facts that anyone that has ever worked with the poor or the homeless will tell you are startling in their simplicity. One of those facts is that America has been conditioned to stop caring for those amongst us who have the least. Another is that this administration has done everything in it's power to cut the poor off from resources once available.
But one of the largest contributing factors to childhood obesity in poor children, (they are not economically challenged, they are poor), is the decline of purchasing power that families have. And we're not talking about just public assistance recipients. There are millions of families in the United States who survive on minimum wage salaries, receive no help whatsoever, and whose children are overweight due to unaffordable prices at the supermarket. This 'study' would have us believe that families whose income may hover at the $1,000 per month mark, (minimum wage earners), who receive no food stamps, no Medicaid, or any other government assistance, have the money to pay for rent, utilities, transportation, day care, and then have enough left over to purchase the types of food that a child needs to grow up healthy.
A recent trip to the market slaps this phony study right down. Purchasing a week's worth of nutritional food for a family of four in these days of high prices can cost over $100. And that's only if you buy all generic foods, little meat or fish, and stock up on all the cheapest food stuffs in the store.
Been to the market lately? Milk: $3.00 a gallon or more. Beef: Ground beef for hamburgers and such is at $3.00 or more per pound for the 80% stuff, and forget about buying roasts or steak, those average out at over $6.00 per pound. Chicken: The cheap store brand is going for $3.00 a pound. Cheese, vegetables, juice, combine all of the items in your refrigerator and cupboards, and tell me how much it costs to feed a family. Thus, the contention that low income families are not feeding their children hot dogs, hamburgers, and whatever other low cost, high fat content foods is a patent falsehood that could only be made by those who have never really taken the time to actually study what the poor actually go through, let alone be able to speak to the issue.
This says nothing for those who survive on assistance programs. They have even less purchasing power despite the widely held notion that they are somehow getting a free ride.
If you truly believe that the poor enjoy a high life while worrying what they'll feed their child after school with an empty kitchen staring themselves in the face, then you're as lost as the university that did this 'study'. Because this study also never included such little details of cost of living increases to the cash side of assistance programs actually causing a loss in purchasing power due to the new formulas put in place by the Bush Mean House that cause a reduction in the amount of food assistance a family receives when the cash supply increases, even by a mere $20.00 per month.
So before you go saying that there is no crisis in America when it comes to poor children eating poorly, and eating whatever fat laden foods they can in order to not starve to death, do a real study, not a hatchet job for the Bush Administration and the 'Compassionate Conservatives.' Get into the trenches at a soup kitchen, or bread line, or better yet, limit yourself to the same budget that poor families live on for a month, and your perspective may change completely. Or, if you have the time to do some real research, read a book entitled "Poor Women, Poor Children : American Poverty In The 1990s", and that will show this so called study for what it is, a sham. And we never even touched on the struggles that middle class families are having in feeding their kids! So shame on the Associated Press for running this story worded as though this were Gospel truth, when the 'researchers' themselves said they didn't actually have any answers at all. Batmanchester