New York Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed soda law has got a number of people up in arms about the government’s priorities. One big reason: If this law and Governor Cuomo’s bill are both passed, you’ll get fined more in New York for selling a 17-ounce soda than possessing 24 grams of weed. For us in Baltimore, I think it should call attention to another debate: The government’s role in our city’s health.
(Watch Jon Stewart talk about New York’s new legislation)
Obesity is a problem for Baltimore. According to our most recent statistics, the city has a higher overweight and obese prevalence than both the state and national prevalence. 67.7 percent of Baltimore City residents are overweight or obese, while only 32.3 percent are at normal weight, down from 38.4 percent in 2002. And it’s actually the people with the least money who are suffering the worst from these weight issues.
Basically, fruits and vegetables are expensive and junk food is cheep. Today, one dollar can buy you around 1200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda, but only 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit. Many of Baltimore’s residents live in what are called “food deserts,” industrialized areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to get. Even if you live in a city, if you don’t have a car and haven’t been told where to look, finding fresh foods can be really hard – just think about how many fried chicken and lake trout joints you pass by for every family grocer.