MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Two new national studies present Alabama as a state where nearly one-third of adults are obese while others have trouble putting meals on the kitchen table.
A report released Thursday by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 32.4 percent of Alabama’s adults are obese. That’s the eighth highest rate in the nation.
Mississippi and West Virginia tied for first place at 35.1 percent. Colorado had the lowest rate at 21.3 percent.
Another study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 16.7 percent of Alabama households had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all members due to a lack of resources. That was the seventh highest rate among the states in the study covering 2011-2013. It compared to a national average of 14.6 percent.
“Hunger is a huge challenge in Alabama when one in six households say they often couldn’t put enough food on the table to ensure a healthy, active life for everyone in the family,” said Kimble Forrister, executive director of the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project. His group is a Montgomery-based nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the lives of low-income Alabamians.
State Health Officer Don Williamson said Thursday the two seemingly contradictory studies are two sides of the same problem.
He said low-income families tend to buy carbohydrates and fatty meats because they are cheaper than lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. “Often the least expensive foods are the highest in calories,” he said.
Also, he said it’s often harder to find stores carrying fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods than it is in other parts of a city.
In the food security study, Alabama’s rate was a significant increase from the 12.5 percent measured a decade earlier in 2001-2003.
Forrister said Alabama could fight hunger by making food more affordable through removing the state sales tax on groceries and replacing the lost revenue responsibly. He also recommended removing a lifetime ban on food stamps for low-income citizens with past felony drug convictions and expanding a new program that allows schools with large numbers of low-income students to offer free meals to all students.
The national obesity study found that the rate in Alabama varied significantly. It was 29.8 percent for white adults, 27.3 percent for Latino adults and 41.8 percent for black adults.
The executive director of Trust for America’s Health, Jeffrey Levi, said to reduce the numbers, efforts need to start in early childhood to promote healthy eating and increased physical activity.