The Intersection of Poverty and Obesity

Two new groups began last week, marking the beginning of a powerful journey of transformation for twenty women-- and their families. During their first sharing circle, one by one, each person nervously shared their name, and then said a little bit about their struggles with food and health, and their hopes for improvement.  

Every member has their own reason for joining Groceryships: some want to learn healthier life skills now, while they're still healthy; some want to learn how to manage their diabetes; others are concerned about their children and family members' health; and all have witnessed--or are experiencing firsthand--the devastating impact of obesity. 

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Although every story is different, and each woman's background is unique, a common theme emerged during the first sharing circle. Many of our members grew up in extreme poverty in countries throughout Central America, and regions throughout Mexico.

photo_(20).JPGTheir journey to America has in many ways, been a story of success. For them, it marked a move away from civil unrest and unchecked violence, and towards greater relative stability and opportunity.

But their stories also have a shadow side. Growing up without enough food, many women learned to overeat in times of plenty in order to stave off hunger later.

Now that they're adults with greater access to resources (although in this country, they are considered low-income) food is more than just a commodity. A full cupboard-- even if it's full of processed foods-- is a sign of how far they have come. And the luxury of being able to eat whenever they want, whatever they want, creates such an sense of emotional comfort that it is hard to resist.

As one woman said, "For me, it's not enough to look in the cabinet and see one box of this or one box of that. I need to see it full of food. My problem now is, throughout the day, whenever I want anything, it's there. If I want a cookie, it's there. If I want chips, they're there. As kids, we never had enough. Now, we do have enough, but it's a problem."

Different voices, in different ways, have shared this story with us again and again. Over our time together, these members will learn how to create other feelings of security and support without having to turn to food. But for now, our group members begin their path at "the intersection of poverty and obesity."