Now & Later Nutrition

According to research including a national sample including 31,243 public secondary schools, 48,460 convenience stores, defined by proprietary SIC codes, and 2004–2005 NCESCCD; census 2000 and Census Bureau 2005 population figures, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that:

  • Schools in predominantly black (>70%) tracts and those in predominantly non-Hispanic white tracts had a similar number of convenience stores within 0.5 miles

  • Schools in middle-income and high-income tracts (based on tertiles of median household income) had 22% fewer and 50% fewer convenience stores within 0.5 miles, respectively, than schools in low-income tracts

When I was in 6th grade, I pretty much ate candy for lunch everyday. We didn't have a convenience store nearby, but we were across the street from a housing project where one of the residents converted their living room into an impressive full-blown candy shop. I was a regular customer during lunch break, as were many other students attending our school. I was making some horrible dietary choices that formed some habits that I still struggle with overcoming today. Let's just say....I likes me some sweets. In fact, some might suggest that I overindulge in them. I believe my intake is relatively moderate, but others may disagree.

The research above suggests that young people from black and brown communities today are probably making similar dietary choices due to the abundance of less healthy snacks made available to them by the stores they are most likely to patronize on a regular basis. When you read the statistics of how diet related illnesses disproportionately effect black and brown people in the U.S., you have to wonder where it all begins. I'll suppose that for many, it likely happens on the way to, or from school.

I would love to see neighborhood convenient stores take the steps to reduce the amount of sugary offerings they provide, but I know from my experience in retail that consumer demand determines the product on the shelf. What we have to do is change the culture of food in our homes, so that making healthy food choices becomes a normalized behavior. In my natural food retail experience I've seen the results. There are actually full-grown adults who have never, or only occasionally experienced the embarrassment of a light blue, or fire engine red stained tongue revealing their fructose-driven transgressions. (Mom: I told you that to you need to stop eating all that candy. Me:...What candy?)

The impact of food, how it is produced, who produces it, and where it is available, is critically important. We can make a difference in the statistical outcomes with the choices we make, and how we educate ourselves and our young people. Teach them well, and they will one day love kale. Be healthy y'all. Love the People. Feed the People.