No Other News The Same: Don't Judge Food Decisions

In 2009, in an effort to bring fresh food into a North Philadelphia neighborhood, a Fresh Grocer was built near Temple University. It was highly publicized. Even Michelle Obama was there for the opening. Everyone had high hopes that this addition would change the health of the neighborhood. Yet four years later, a Penn State study finds that shoppers aren't eating any more fresh produce and that body-mass index hasn't decreased. Why not? Well, the simple addition of fresh food isn't enough to change human behavior. Making a change is way more complicated than that.

It's no secret that food access divides Americans. When the only option within an easy distance includes mostly processed food, it's much more difficult to access fruits and vegetables that will enhance health. Yet simply providing access to low-income food deserts isn't enough.

Of course nutrition education always plays a role in healthy eating, yet it's not fair to judge a lower income neighborhood for making the same food choices that are made al over America. "Judging low-income people for not eating enough fruits and vegetables makes little sense in a country that practically celebrates the chance to eat poorly," said Shiriki Kumanyika, an epidemiologist and obesity expert at the University of Pennsylvania. "If supermarkets alone could cure unhealthy diets, what Americans eat would look very different," she said. "The choices people make in supermarkets are bad if you look at the overall American diet. And that's regardless of income."

So what does go into eating choices? Income of course, yet beyond that, emotions, societal pressures, traditions and more. Change is not something that can happen overnight. The best bet is to work towards understanding what's behind food decisions, not judging, not thinking one person has all the answers, and working together with communities to gain control over their food.