Health & Fitness

You are what you eat--and what you grow

By FinalCall.com News | Last updated: Dec 8, 2010 - 11:12:45 PM

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FinalCall.com Focus: Food, Farming and Black Survival
FinalCall.com News Focus: Food, Farming & Black Survival

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Photo: www.sxc.hu
(FinalCall.com) - With Great Migrations into the 1920s and other important periods in U.S. history, Blacks left the South in droves for perceived opportunities in the North and urban areas—all the time seeking relief and a better way of life—and often to escape outright brutality and death.

Many who fled left behind debilitating poverty, near slave-like sharecropping conditions and even their own property as Whites chased Blacks with land off of their own property.

Those who were left behind still suffered discrimination and injustice handed out by federal, state and local agencies. Black farmers were denied loans, technical expertise, market access and other tools needed for success. The idea of working on a farm was also not an attractive one for people who had toiled the earth for others without seeing true benefit for themselves.

Life in the big city eventually brought changes in diets and today's near dependence on processed, ready-made food and regular, sometimes daily, trips to fast food restaurants for alluring, often cheap but unhealthy food.

According to a recent report by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, Black children see approximately 50 percent more fast food ads than White children and McDonald's and KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, target Black consumers. Black children saw twice as many calories as White children in daily ads and Blacks, on average, watch more TV than Whites, so Black children were more likely to be exposed to the corporate “buy me” barrage of fries, pizza, chips and burgers.

Black children also suffer from disproportionate rates of obesity, juvenile diabetes and other illnesses linked to diet, just as their parents and grandparents suffer disproportionately from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney failure and some types of cancers. This suffering is all linked to eating the wrong foods and overeating.

Part of the problem is choice. Some research has shown it is often easier to get a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor—or fries and a shake—than a banana, an apple or an orange in poor Black neighborhoods. Some analysts have said Blacks live in “food deserts” with few healthy choices or places to get good, wholesome food. Others say even the term “desert,” is wrong. A desert, they say, is a dry but self-sustaining eco-system. What Blacks suffer from is “food injustice,” argues LaDonna Redmond, a Chicago-based advocate and activist who has tried for years to bring healthy foods to the community.

“The growth of the fast-food industry has been an important environmental inducement for increased food consumption. In the last 20 years, the percentage of calories attributable to fast-food consumption has increased from 3% to 12% of total calories consumed in the United States. U.S. spending on fast food has risen from $6 billion to $110 billion over the last 30 years,” the 2004 American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported in a 2004 article on “Fast Food, Race/Ethnicity, and Income.”

“Fast food is notably high in fat content and studies have found associations between fast food intake and increased body mass index (BMI) and weight gain,” the study found.

“Fast food restaurants have a negative effect on community health and vitality. Almost all of the foods they sell are bad for health; eating fast food has been linked with many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color—where healthy foods are often inaccessible—are disproportionately impacted by an abundance of fast food restaurants and aggressive fast food advertising. Fast food restaurants also cluster around schools, creating unhealthy environments for our young people. In fact, the fast food industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on marketing to children, who, because of their early developmental stage, are particularly vulnerable to such practices. Finally, many fast food jobs are part-time and low-wage, lack benefits, have high turnover, and do not provide quality employment opportunities for community residents. Community efforts to reduce the harmful impact of fast food can focus on policies such as zoning restrictions, menu labeling laws, and restrictions on marketing to children,” said the Prevention Institute's website. The institute describes itself as a national non-profit committed to preventing illness and injury and fostering health and social equity as part of a quality health system.

Meanwhile as Blacks gained “opportunity”—or fought an often different type of struggle in cities—millions of acres of land were lost. So today Blacks own less than four million acres of land, according to Dr. Ridgley Muhammad, Nation of Islam national student minister of agriculture and manager for Muhammad Farms.

As a result we are a nearly landless people at the mercy of “merchants of death” who place profit above health and wealth above well-being. “There's tremendous profit in promoting the death-dealing lifestyles that many of us lead. You may not believe it but the leading promoters of our destructive lifestyles are the United States government, the food and drug industries and the medical community,” wrote the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in “A Torchlight for America,” a solution-based book of wisdom and guidance for a country facing a health crisis and ever-escalating health care costs.

Pointing to the divine instruction that came from his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Minister has repeated the call to eat to live and not to die. “It is now being proven by scientists that what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught on how to eat to live—one meal a day, no snacks in between meals, and to eat only the best foods—is absolutely correct and good for our body,” Minister Farrakhan said.

But beyond the divine wisdom contained in the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his illuminating works, “How to Eat To Live, Books I & II,” the Minister reminds us of another powerful truth shared by Mr. Elijah Muhammad—We Must Have Some of This Earth To Call Our Own.

Today's food supply from hormone-laced chicken, cattle and sheep, alongside contaminated fish, pesticide sprayed fruits and genetically-modified crops are not the best food. Much of today's produce may look good but it actually is lacking in nutritional content.

“So we're learning how to eat to live, what foods to choose, but now we must be willing to go to the earth and produce that food so that we can extend our days,” said Min. Farrakhan in an interview contained in the center spread of this edition.

In the end, the call for changing our diets and eating patterns and obtaining and working acres of farmland is rooted in a scriptural promise. What promise? “The reason that we are interested in food and raising of food and how—and the correct foods to eat—is because that is the only way we can prolong human life and that is the gift of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad from Allah to teach us what foods to eat and what foods to store in our houses,” said Min. Farrakhan.

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