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Muting poverty’s role in processed food and obesity



Some of the processed foods for sale at a store in a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood that also stocks fresh fruits and vegetables. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Tamar Haspel’s July 24 Food article, “And now, a fat finger pointed at processed food,” entirely neglected the role of poverty and structural inequalities in the food choices of people who are suffering from diet-related chronic illnesses.

Ms. Haspel ended her piece by declaring that “as always, we get the food supply we demand.” Who, exactly, is this “we” to whom she refers? I’ve seen residents from east of the Anacostia River testify and march in the streets to demand healthy food. These are the same communities where cheap, processed foods are ubiquitous and fresh produce is hard to find. These are the same residents who experience diabetes at rates five times higher than folks living in Northwest Washington. This is also the demographic most heavily advertised to by processed-food industries. (A report by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity indicates that black teenagers see 17.1 ads for junk food per day. White teenagers see 7.8 per day.)

I’ve started seeing people on the streets of Anacostia and Congress Heights wearing “Don’t Mute My Health” T-shirts. Ms. Haspel’s resounding silence on issues of poverty, race and media targeting does just that by perpetuating the myth that people want what they have.

Lauren Shweder Biel, Washington

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