Alabama is the first in the line of our nation’s 50 states by virtue of its alphabetical spelling. That is not the only time the state comes up first in rankings.
I grew up a product of Alabama’s public school system hearing that Alabama was the dumbest state in the nation. Educators and our political leaders have done a great deal to try to turn this stigma around. The latest report that has reached my ears about our state is that Alabama has the highest percentage of people who are hungry than any other state in the nation. But, just last year, I learned that Alabamians were the most obese people in the nation. When I tried to wrap my brain around both tidbits of information, it comes out as saying that Alabama is the hungriest, yet fattest state in the United States.
How can this be?
I’m sure I sound politically incorrect with my plain terms. Hopefully I will not offend anyone before this article is done. But it is bewilderment to me and a few other people how Alabamians can have a problem with obesity while families are going without enough food to eat. Isn’t that a paradox? Let’s look at the statistics concerning hunger and obesity in Alabama.
In a report by WSFA News on Nov. 22, Alabama was listed as having the highest rate of hunger than any other state in the country. Hunger affected 126,000 homes, or 6.8 percent of the state’s population. The national average was 5.2 percent. This information was taken from research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
I was able to find the USDA’s report on the nation’s hunger percentages. The report, titled Food Security in the United States: Key Statistics and Graphics, was conducted and compiled by Mark Nord and Alisha Coleman-Jensen.
First of all, the words hunger or hungry were never used in the report. The Data used the terms Food Security, Food Insecure, Low Food Security and Very Low Food Security to describe four levels of household access to food. Homes that were considered Food Secure had continual access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Households that were considered Food Insecure, or having Low Food Security or Very Low Food Security were households that were uncertain of having or unable to get enough food to meet the needs of all members at certain times of the year. There wasn’t enough money or resources for food in households that fell into these three categories. Data was taken over a three-year period from 2007 to 2009 on the state level for the sake of reliability.
Nationally, food insecurity prevailed in households with incomes below the official poverty level of $21,756 for a family of four, households headed by single women with children, and Black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was less prevalent in two parent homes, among the elderly and in homes with no children. Food insecurity prevailed most in the south and least in the northeast.
Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina led states with above national average rates of food insecurity, with Arkansas having the highest rate of all. Alabama’s rate of food insecurity was lower than these five states and Oklahoma’s and Tennessee’s. So you see, Alabama is not the hungriest state in the nation after all. However, Alabama’s 6.8 percent rate of very low food security put it in the spotlight as the state with the most hunger happening. North Dakota had the least amount of Food Insecurity.
To what do we contribute Alabama’s disturbing rates of food insecurity? Some citizens point to the fact that Alabama is one of only two states that taxes food. Mississippi taxes food. They have higher rates of food insecurity than Alabama.
So while Alabama comes in at number one in the nation of highest percentage of households with very low food security, it also comes in – not first – but in the top 10 of states with obesity issues. U.S. Obesity Trends by State 1985-2009 published by the Centers for Disease Control listed Alabama at 31 percent of its citizens with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more. Alabama was ranked at number seven. Mississippi was ranked number one.
Hopefully, this will somehow dispel the misinformation that Alabama has the highest rates of hunger and obesity than any other state in the nation. Both hunger and obesity is a problem here in Sweet Home Alabama, but they’re not just an Alabama problem. They are a national problem and an individual problem. It is up to each individual to make sure that no one we know goes hungry, and that we do what we can to stay healthy by becoming physically active and eating nutritious foods
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