If we lived in Southeast Asia, Africa, or many other places, we would not have to make the nation’s No. 1 Resolution on January 1 to lose weight, as we do here. There, many people stay trim by starving to death.
In fact, while I am writing this column, an estimated 21,000 people around the world are dying from hunger, which comes out to one person every 3.9 seconds, according to statistics I was reading. The horrendous total is 7,665,000 a year, and among them are 1,250,000 children.
You probably have seen pictures of children with twig-like arms and legs, bloated bellies, and bulging eyes — not a pretty sight. And if such children don’t die outright from starvation, their bodies and minds probably will be stunted for life.
Thanks to food banks and meals served to homeless or destitute people, the problems of hunger in the San Luis Valley and elsewhere in our country are not so obvious. We do not see the twig-like arms and legs on our streets, but we certainly see an over-abundance of big bellies and out-sized bodies.
The problem is the quality of our nutrition. Nutritionists nag us about eating plenty of fruits, veggies, whole-grains, proteins, and low-fat dairy, but what do folks actually eat? Processed foods with little or no nutritional value and sugar, sugar, sugar – the stuff that causes us to be overweight.
Beginning with tots and school children and lasting through adulthood, we choose to eat and drink junk instead of the good-for-us things. Junk is so available everywhere, so cheap, and so convenient, who wants to bother with getting the really good food that nutritionists talk about?
There are other reasons, too. More moms and even grandmothers are out of the kitchens and into jobs, more dads are running households or no one is, and more youngsters and singles are snacking on whatever they want and are lined up at the drive-through, along with the adults.
One set of statistics reports that households with the average income of slightly more than $74,000 per year in this country spend $4,049 on food consumed at home and another $3,154 on food consumed away from home. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that households might save quite a lot of money by eating more at home or at least carrying home-prepared food to work.
Another way to look at statistics is to view how much or how little money people have available to spend on food in the first place. In the top 1 percent of wealth, that may be a mere 5 percent of income including the truffles, caviar, and fine restaurants, but even in the U.S. as a whole, households with average incomes spend only 6.4 percent or 6.7 percent.
So, food sounds like a bargain, but the problem is that the poorer a household is, the greater the percentage that must be spent on food. It often is 20 percent or much more in low-income areas like ours.
Then there are quite a few people like me who just prefer to prepare and eat food at home because we like it that way and have food budgets that we stick to like hawks. But after eating all the right stuff that the nutritionists advocate, I also snack off and on during the day on the wrong stuff, my nemesis.
Without that bad habit, I could give more from my food budget to Action Against Hunger, Bread For the World, The Hunger Project, Heifer International, or some other worthwhile program. So, while sticking to Resolution No. 1, I could send a few more dollars from No. 2, The Budget, to help alleviate hunger and malnutrition around the world, Resolution No.3.
It makes sense, and cents. Maybe it will help me to tape a photo of a starving child on my refrigerator door, too.