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Falling Princesses & Rising Obesity

| July 13, 2009

Not-So-Little Red Riding Hood

Courtesy Dina Goldstein / JPG

Vancouver photographer Dina Goldstein‘s photo exhibit-in-progress “Fallen Princesses” takes an unorthodox approach to updating Disney fairy tales. Prince Charming leaves Snow White to raise four small children, Princess Jasmine fights in a war zone, and Cinderella drowns her sorrows in cheap booze. The most controversial of these is the newest addition, “Not-So-Little Red Riding Hood”. The image depicts an obese Little Red Riding Hood chugging a soda & carting a basket of burgers. Many commenters on the JPG website and the blog Women’s Glib believe it reinforces a stereotype “that fat people eat indiscriminantly and ‘unhealthily'”. I believe this photo tells a different story.

The dramatic rise in obesity has multiple reasons, one of them being an explosion in fast food consumption (the McDonald’s right next to our office boasts “Over 99 Billion Served”). One reason it’s so high in many regions is that it’s the only food available. “Food deserts” form in impoverished areas, wherein small markets & liquor stores cannot or do not stock fresh fruits & vegetables, and grocery chains fear to tread. This is why politicians such as Los Angeles’ Jan Perry push for grocery stores to develop in poorer districts & attempt to restrict fast food expansion into these same neighborhoods. The  deeply rural forest of Little Red Riding Hood & other fairy tales could be considered such a region.

Another reason fast food consumption is so high is that it’s the only food affordable.  For low-income households, hard choices must be made between filling bellies & filling gas tanks – healthy eating doesn’t even fit into the budget. One scene in Food, Inc. (you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about this documentary, but it’s really stuck in my mind) shows this when a working family prices out a healthy salad versus a fast food dollar menu. A single head of lettuce, not even enough for a salad, costs more than an entire meal off the dollar menu. Even families that can afford fresh produce & healthier foods can lack the time or knowledge to choose or prepare them. It’s important to note that Red Riding Hood isn’t sitting at a table scarfing all that food herself; she’s taking family dinner to Grandma’s, and that’s all they can afford.

Is fast food consumption the only cause of obesity? Of course not. But there’s no denying that hunger & obesity skyrocket amongst the lowest income families. And that is truly offensive.

4 Responses

  1. [...] This post was Twitted by StopHunger [...]

  2. Miel Abeille says:

    On a recent trip to donate food at the Mercer Street Friends food bank, an employee told me that all of the grocery stores have moved out of the city of Trenton, NJ. With a population of over 80,000 people, residents must shop in the suburbs, sometimes using a not-so-convenient mass transit.

    Yeah, there are corner stores and a farmers market (on the far edge of the city, bordering the ‘burbs) but within the city limits there is an over abundance of–guess what–fast food joints!

    Exclusively eating fast food is far more economical than traveling to a grocery store. It’s sad that the politicians can’t see the relationship.

  3. Xtine says:

    Agreed. Loved the movie “Food, Inc.” We demonize the poor for being unhealthy. Part of the solution is educating everyone as to the source of the problem. Healthy food has become a luxury – and probably long has been a luxury, but a less active and less agrarian world means the urban poor have a whole new set of problems that aren’t solved by more options of cheap, Unhealthy food.

    Part of the solution is not only making healthy food more available and affordable, but cities need to seriously work on their ability to grow healthy food within their own borders.

  4. coupons for groceries says:

    Thank you very much for this wonderful blog post.

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