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Permission to Propose a Garden - More Research Needed

It's a small step, but we are making a proposal to the Community Board in which our school is located to plant a garden in the Community Gardens across the street from our school. I'm doing research into it, but I also have to get the proposal written. Here's what I'm studying now:
A Guide to Resources.

I'm also reading, and re-reading Jonathan B. Wallach's and Mariano J. Rey's article, "A social economic Analysis of Obesity and Diabetes in New York City," from Preventing Chronic Disease: July 2009: 08_0215. This article makes me think that "diabesity" (or the path of obesity to diabetes) is an issue that I, as a teacher of many Asian, black, and Hispanic youths can and should be dealing with as part of the question of "food security" in my local community. This is a problem of poverty and a poor food distribution system -- of poor education -- of poverty itself in NYC.

Here are some of my notes on this article:

Preventing Chronic Disease: July 2009: 08_0215

I'm not sure that obesity fits the issue of "food security," but obesity causes diabetes, which means that this disease is directly related to how people are getting and eating their food, and it is a special problem in New York City as this article makes clear. And diabetes is no minor disease. It is causing a health crisis in our city:
"The somatic consequences of diabetes — including a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, blindness, renal failure, and amputations — are well-known and doc**ented. Researchers are now also focusing on its devastating effects on mental health, as diabetic New Yorkers are 1.9 times more likely than nondiabetic residents to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders (6).
"Poorer people are more likely to become obese because of factors such as less healthy nutritional habits (healthy foods tend to be more expensive) and lack of time to exercise."

What a clear description this is of of how "diabecitiy" results from the food system that we have in the United States in general, and specifically in NYC.
"Although the entire city’s adult population has a diabetes prevalence of 12.5%, it is highest among Asians (16.0%), followed by blacks (14.3%), Hispanics (12.3%), and whites (10.8%)."
This is odd, isn't it? So is there something in the genetic code that makes Asians and blacks more likely to get diabetes? Even asking that question is uncomfortable, makes me worried that someone will consider me racists. How can we talk about race and genes?
"The 31% obesity rate among Hispanic schoolchildren is likely to cause the current 12.3% diabetes prevalence among Hispanic adults to rise in coming years (5,7)."
This is a surprising prediction. Hispanic males are most at risk because the are already more obese than girls and because Hispanics students are getting obese faster than any other group. The problem is bad and getting worse.
"Because nearly 15% of Asian schoolchildren are obese (3 times the current adult obesity rate), the diabetes rate among Asian adults can be expected to increase as these obese children become adults."
Here, again, the numbers predict a dim future for a particular group of people who are children now. Adult Asians have a 5% obesity rate and a 16% diabetes rate. So when Asian children, who have a 15% obesity rate, does that mean that they will have a 39% rate of diabetes?

Wallach and Rey's article made me eager to read an article in that I might have otherwise passed up in the Manhattan Times, a local, weekly newspaper. At the beginning of March, they started publishing a full, double-page insert called the "Green Times," and in the March 24th issue, there's an short article by a couple of local Upper Manhattan environmental activists (WE ACT), Auhthu Hoang and James Suvudhi, "10 Ways to Improve New york City's Food System."

Haong and Suvudhi make the connections between food, disease and the environment very clear in their first sentence: "New York City is eating itself into an obese, diabetic and dangerously hot future." Further, they explain that because New Yorkers eat fast food and highly processed food products we have a "runaway epidemic of obesity and diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease."

If I hadn't just read the statistical details provided in the Wallach and Rey article, I might have glanced over this and thought that it's just yet another problem that we face in this city. Instead, I'm primed to pay attention to this one health crisis that is getting worse each year, and which we can change if we change our behavior. And change our food system.

I like the way Hoang and Suvudhi break the food system down "into stages of production, processing/packaging, distribution, consumption, and disposal of food." I think this make it obvious why we need more green markets where we can get to know and to buy food from local farmers. There are many other recommendations in the article (which I will link to when it comes online at the Manhattan Times.) I think we can all do things like: "Purchase locally grown seasonal foods when possible and when it makes sense." Some of the other recommendations are policy proposals, like: "Preserve farmland upstate to produce food for schools."

These articles give me confidence that we can find rich links between health issues, food distribution, and gardening!

Views: 9

Comment by Starling on April 2, 2010 at 10:34pm
Good work Paul. Look forward to hearing more about the proposal. Permission, proposals, that stuff is all hard work!
Comment by Vivien on April 3, 2010 at 4:14pm
wow - it really is kind of scary to look at and see hte numbers that confirm what we are visibly noticing...that children, particularly thoughs in highly developed cities, are becoming more and more obese - leading to future diebesity (good word for it). It hink what kind of boggles the mind in this case is that we are currently in an age of nutrition awareness, adn the people who are parents should know better.

But that does not account for poverty, and the sad truth is that sometimes it's cheaper to get fast food than buy things from the grocery store and prepare it. And on top of that factor, that impoverished families often don't have a strong parental presence at homes (due to work schedules, etc.) that there also isn't always time for parents to make food at home - and in turn, pass along nutritional awareness to their children.

It is somewhat reasurring to know that there are a few programs in place to try and reach young school children at school (before school) with breakfast programs.

Good luck with your proposal - school gardens are really beautiful adn do amazing thigns for the kids who are involved with them.


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