When I was a child, one of my family’s Hanukkah traditions was donating food to a local food bank. Instead of receiving a gift on the last night of Hanukkah, we went as a family to the grocery store and used the money to buy food for those in need. Donating food for the hungry is a common act of kindness. In fact, one prominent organization, Feeding America, secures and distributes 2.5 billion pounds of food annually.

However, according to the New York Times article “The Obesity-Hunger Paradox,” written in March by Sam Dolnick, the “hungriest” people in America today, statistically speaking, may be obese. The article focuses on the South Bronx in New York, where many people are “food insecure.” The Bronx has the city’s highest rate of obesity, with residents facing an estimated 85 percent higher risk of being obese than Manhattan residents. A study by the city government indicated that 9 of the Bronx’s 12 community districts had too few supermarkets, forcing many residents to rely on unhealthful, but cheap, food.

In effort to incentive people to make healthy choices, the city of New York offers “Health Bucks,” a program that encourages people to spend their food stamps at farmers’ markets by giving them an extra $2 coupon for every $5 spent on farmers’ market food.The city has also created initiatives to draw grocery stores carrying fresh produce to low-income areas by offering them incentives such as tax credits.

While these are positive steps in making healthy food more affordable and accessible, the question is, will it make a difference?In addition to creating financial incentives, is New York taking the necessary steps to properly educate people on making healthy decisions?

The city of New York and other organizations need to continually educate people on the true effects on daily eating choices. Programs such as LetsMove.gov and shows such as Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” are all steps in the right direction.Fighting the obesity epidemic, just as with fighting hunger, is a multi-faceted challenge that requires both a financial and educational approach.

—Sara C.

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