Black America is too fat

Blank is to urban as inner-city is to hood. Overweight is to fat as heavy is to blank. You don’t have to be a SAT guru to figure out these analogies.

But if you haven’t, the answers are black and obesity. That’s right, black obesity.

According to recent health articles, it’s a hot topic, but you wouldn’t know this by the frequent use of obscure words like urban and heavy.

So I’ll say what the health experts are too gutless to tell you, “Black America, you are too fat!”

And Men’s Fitness magazine proved it.

In its sixth-annual “America’s Fattest Cities” report, the publication ranked several areas with large black populations. Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago and Houston all placed within the top ten. Yet 2004’s chubbiest title-holder is Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s city, Detroit.

Being that the FAMU alumnus graced almost every newsmagazine morning show with his urban health initiative, I found the ranking somewhat confusing. Kilpatrick had virtually obliterated greasy lunch trays from public school cafeterias, and was working on getting the elderly in the gym.

But as I looked at the Men’s Fitness grading rubric, I began to understand why so many black communities had topped it’s list.

The magazine used the amount of total fast-food joints per 100,000 people, the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption and available health resources in each city to help decide its outcome.

While the presence of grocery stores is lacking, bodegas and quickie marts fill their places with a hefty supply of the ghetto’s four basic food groups: salty, sugary, carbonate and beer. Should there be a supermarket present, there is a greater chance that rotting vegetables and spoiled meat fills the stands.

Since many of our nutritional choices are restricted to our surroundings there’s no wonder why black communities are tipping the weight scales. There is nothing in place to balance this influx of unhealthy food in our neighborhoods. Simply stated, healthy food is a rare and inaccessible commodity for most inner-city residents.

Therefore, no amount of exercising programs and fitness centers will solve urban obesity until the community’s existing food services become regulated.

In that respect, it is necessary for urban planning developers and city councilmen to step in and start creating fast-food zoning laws inside inner-city neighborhoods.

Restrictions should be placed on the number of on-the-go food franchises that a corporation can open in relation to a community’s population. Zoning laws should also require a minimum of supermarkets within the same areas.

If local governments can sanction sections of land for specific uses like business, residential and red light districts, then it should also apply to wellness of health.

Monica Harden is a senior magazine student from Hockley, Texas. She can be reached at