Going to Holmes County, Mississippi – The Most Obese Place in the World
Ever since I started Food Babe a year and a half ago, I’ve made it my mission to spread as much information as possible about organic living, the chemicals in processed food that are making us fat and sick and the truth about our food supply. Tomorrow, I will have my chance to share this information with one of the most desperate communities in the nation.
Earlier this year I was contacted by Daniel Seddiqui (famous for working 50 jobs in 50 states in one year and writing the book Living the Map), to help him with “Drop Me In” - a documentary project to examine social issues and marginalization across the country through immersion into struggling communities and environments.
For the next 4 days, I will be volunteering my time in the town of Pickens, Mississippi, which is in Holmes County. As you might be aware, the United States is the most obese country in the world. Holmes is the most obese county in the United States – making Holmes County the most obese place in the world. I know I won’t be able to change these statistics overnight – but I am hoping my voice will make a lasting impact on the people of Pickens.
I will be visiting local families, taking them grocery shopping, teaching them healthier cooking methods in their own kitchens, and participating in the first ever 5k/10k race in Pickens history.
Daniel has been in Pickens for the last couple of weeks, preparing and conditioning the community for the race. We have been talking daily about what I can expect and what obstacles I need to prepare for… he reports that people in the community have shared with him that someone dies almost weekly of an obesity related illness, the average life expectancy being 42. He also warned me that many people only eat processed food, fried food or the cheapest thing they can buy with their limited incomes.
The Side Effects of Obesity – Source: MedaCad
It may seem obvious that people living in Pickens don’t have easy access to healthy fresh food, but I want to find out for myself. When I get down there tomorrow, I’ll be doing my best to find food for the community that I feel comfortable eating myself – I know I may have to put aside some of my own principles to make this happen (i.e. not eating everything organic, etc), but I hope to inspire them to think outside their limited resources to find or even grow healthy food.
So far from the looks of the produce department at their local Piggly Wiggly grocery store, Daniel says there is not much available – he did not see fresh greens – only a few apples and bananas, and everything was bagged or packaged. Luckily, there is a Walmart and health food store about 40 miles away… which prompted me to ask my facebook fans today, what organic products they buy at Walmart. I received several strong opinions about people not supporting or shopping at Walmart due to their corporate practices. I personally have shopped at Walmart only once before for food (coincidentally, it was the last time I was in Mississippi for a wedding). Putting these opinions aside, I hope we can all agree that the issue the people of Pickens (and many others across the country) are experiencing is bigger than a grocery store choice – it’s about what they have access to and can affordably purchase to feed their families.
A saddening reality for me is that many of these people don’t have computers in their homes or readily available internet access to get the education and information they need to break free from the cycle of poverty and obesity. They have to rely on whatever food manufacturers are telling them on the package in grocery stores, main stream media in the form of TV commercials or news or what they learned briefly about nutrition in school (which as you know – isn’t much or even correct sometimes).
I have to be honest, I am really nervous. I know this project will be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before… To build up my confidence – I keep reminding myself “to be the change I wish to see in the world,” hoping it will motivate and inspire others to help towns like Pickens all over the country learn the truth about food.
Almost 50% of us are projected to be obese by 2030… I can’t just sit back and do nothing.
A big thanks goes out to Nature’s Path Foods who has already donated a truck load of food for this struggling community. When I discussed this project with them and asked them if they would like to get involved – there was no hesitation. Nature’s Path immediately sent down 2 bags of organic cereal for every single family in the entire town of Pickens to try. Their generosity and willingness to get involved in small community projects like this one speaks volumes about their brand and values.
Smoothie King also kindly donated gift cards – I am a huge fan of their organic wheatgrass. I can’t wait to do wheatgrass shots with who I hope to be my new friends.
I ask for your well wishes for me and this community as I experience first hand what it is like to live in a food desert.