Jonathan Chait

Hunger And Obesity Can Coexist

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Last month, the Heritage Foundation had some fun with what it called a "flip-flop" by the Obama administration:

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign against childhood obesity, which is interesting considering President Barack Obama’s past statements on hunger in America.

In November of 2009 only three short months ago President Obama “reacted with concern” at a report that Americans are suffering “record levels” of “food insecurity,” according to a report from the Boston Globe. ...

So which is it?  Is the real problem here hunger, or is it obesity?

Hur-hur! They can't decide if there are overweight people in America or hungry people! Obviously both can't exist simultaneously!

I wrote about this at the time, but I'm bringing it up again because Sunday's New York Times has a good report on the way "food insecurity" and obesity actually do tend to reside side-by-side, not only in the same country but even--this will blow Heritage's mind -- among the very same individual:

[A] recent survey found that the most severe hunger-related problems in the nation are in the South Bronx, long one of the country’s capitals of obesity. Experts say these are not parallel problems persisting in side-by-side neighborhoods, but plagues often seen in the same households, even the same person: the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat.

Call it the Bronx Paradox.

“Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “Hunger is certainly almost an exclusive symptom of poverty. And extra obesity is one of the symptoms of poverty."

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