While Texas legislators are busy whittling away at women’s access to reproductive healthcare, making cutbacks on HIV medications, or maybe praying for rain, about 700,000 in just Harris County are fighting their own budget crisis. Amid high unemployment and high gas prices, hundreds of thousands of families are having to balance their own budgets and cutting down on food costs.
The result, according to the Houston Chronicle, is that a huge chunk of Texans, as many as 16% in some counties, face food insecurity.
The relatively benign-sounding development buzzword conceals the fact that million in Texas are hungry; approximately 15.3 percent in Montgomery County don’t know where and when their next meal will come.
This may seem incongruous to the knowledge that Texas also has one of the highest levels of obesity in the country. Behind these statistics is the fact that many Texans are poor. And poverty means that when food is available, many can’t afford recommended nutritional and balanced diets, instead relying on “basic carbohydrates, which have little nutritional value,” according to the World Health Organization (link to PDF here). Many studies have revealed the link between poverty, food insecurity, and obesity.
Because, despite fat-phobic stereotypes, when money becomes tight, families often must choose high-calorie, low-cost foods, meaning rarely are fresh fruits and vegetables affordable or a viable option. Cheap foods, easily accessible in convenience stores, are cheap per calorie, while the healthier alternatives may cost several thousand times more per calorie.
And these grocery stores can be far. On a recent trip through West and Central Texas, my friend and I were simply trying to find some fruit for breakfast. I just wanted a damn banana. It took us traveling through three small towns before we could find a grocery store. In between we peeked in half a dozen convenience stores, hoping to find something that wasn’t fried, dunked in oil, or wrapped in plastic after covered in chocolate.
As far as obesity goes, studies have shown that women are far more likely to become obese as a result of poverty and food insecurity; mildly food insecure women are 30% more likely to be obese than food secure women. The result is, what State Comptroller Susan Combs estimates, at least $9.5 billion to Texas businesses.
And what does the WHO recommend in light of food security? Allow women to be in charge of our own uteruses (uteri?) (see Fact Sheet PDF). Novel concept.
Because when women can determine the timing and spacing of children, they can factor in the cost of a child and determine if there’s enough to keep a kid fed, and fed with nutritional food.
See, John Cornyn, perhaps access to reproductive healthcare is “essential to the function of the federal government,” despite your claims to the contrary.