By Steven Barboza
Are buckets of chicken and wheel-sized burgers weapons of mass destruction in the black community?
Flavor Flav of Public Enemy fame has plans to open a chain of chicken joints, striving to “fight the power” of KFC by bringing the aroma of Flav-seasoned chicken to a corner near you.
If Flav’s Fried Chicken — or FFC — ends up serving good ‘n healthy meals, amen. But if it ends up being just another fast food joint, more African Americans may pack on extra pounds.
The war against obesity in black America hasn’t really gotten started yet. Every day, millions of black kids and adults walk into fast food restaurants, put a hurtin’ on some burgers, and walk out with “super-sized” bodies.
Some take this simple act of eating as a sign that black America is committing culinary suicide. The chosen weapons of mass destruction aren’t only burgers; they are deep buckets of chicken, sugary drinks, and even 2,500-plus calorie burgers the size of hubcaps.
“Food companies have a long history of marketing unhealthy products to minority communities, especially blacks and Hispanics,” said renowned nutritionist Marion Nestle. “Fast food chains are often the only restaurants in low income communities.” Alternatives for nutritious food, thus, are limited.
Nestle, the author of a book called “Food Politics,” noted that single parent families have a greater incidence of obesity than two-parent families, saying “this is associated with higher levels of poverty.”
In her book, she points out that companies seek to expand food sales by lobbying government agencies, forging alliances with health professionals, marketing to children, selling junk food as health food, and getting laws passed that “favor corporate health over human health.”
“Race-based obesity” is an ugly reality in America. “It reflects national statistics,” she said. Using “body mass index” (calculations correlating weight to height) as a gauge, four out of five African American women are considered either overweight or obese, national studies have found.
The prevalence of obesity among African Americans is 51% higher than for whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A national medical journal study found that the prevalence of obesity is 26% for black girls ages 6 to 19, compared to 15% for white girls in the same age group. Also, 37% of black men are obese, compared to 32% of white men, and 7% of black men were extremely obese, compared to 4% of white men.
“The overabundance of fast food and the lack of access to healthier foods have increased the African American community’s vulnerability to food-related death and disease as compared to whites,” said Andrea Freeman, author of the California Law Review article “Fast Food: Oppression through Nutrition.”