During an attack on Michelle Obama for promoting greater access to grocery stores as a way to deal with childhood obesity, Sean Hannity claimed that there are "grocery stores everywhere." In fact, millions of Americans live more than one mile from a grocery store and do not have access to a car, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that greater access to grocery stores is related to a reduced risk for childhood obesity.
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Michelle Obama Identified Lack Of Access To Grocery Stores As A Problem
Michelle Obama: "Access And Affordability" Are "Some Of The Primary Causes Of Obesity" For Kids In America. During a November 13 roundtable discussion at Ma'o Organic Farms in Waianae, Hawaii, Michelle Obama stated that in many communities in the United States "kids aren't growing up with vegetables" and pointed to "access and affordability" as part of the problem:
But one of the primary reasons we planted the garden was as a form of education. Childhood obesity is one of my signature issues. Our goal is to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. And our view is that if we teach young people early about how to eat, and we give them a connection to the food that they eat, that they're more excited and interesting -- and interested in what's going on, and that in turn opens up a broader conversation about nutrition and health and movement -- but also deeper issues of access and affordability, which are some of the primary causes of obesity. Because many of our communities -- in underserved communities, kids aren't growing up with vegetables because there are no grocery stores. People don't have that connection.[WhiteHouse.gov, 11/13/11]
Hannity Responded By Claiming "I See Grocery Stores Everywhere"
Hannity: "Where Are There No Grocery Stores? ... That's Not What I See. I See Grocery Stores Everywhere." From the November 15 edition of The Sean Hannity Show:
SEAN HANNITY: By the way the Obama's are going to be hanging out in Hawaii, I guess, over the holidays. The first lady said that, what do you call this, arugula and steak, is that healthy? [Do] you ever eat that Linda? You eat more stuff than I do, more of that good stuff.
She also said that children in underserved communities become obese because they aren't growing up with vegetables because there are no grocery stores. Where are there no grocery stores? I'm just -- tell me where, because that's not what I see. I see grocery stores everywhere. You see local markets, you see delicatessen, I mean, I know I live in New York but I go -- I travel all around the country and there are stores everywhere. You're saying that people can't find food, we can't find an apple, we can't find broccoli, we can't find frozen peas. What is she talking about?
"Childhood obesity is one of my signature issues," she said, "our goal is to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. And our view is if we teach young people early how to eat, give them a connection to the food that they eat, that they're more excited and interesting and interested in what's going on, and it turns -- it will turn open a broader conversation about nutrition and health and movement and also deeper issues of access and affordability, which are some of the primary causes of obesity."
No it's not. That is not the primary cause of obesity. The primary cause of obesity is 'cause parents don't parent, that's why. Hannity, I can't believe you just said that. Well, there are cases where there are physical issues with kids, but that is not the majority. A lot of parents, lets their kids eat crap all day long, and that's not something the government is going to be able to stop just because all of a sudden, you know, the first lady or the president says we got to start eating healthy.
Hey look, this -- the bottom line here is people like junk food, and they like it, so they eat it, and some people eat too much of it. And it's like everything else in life. You can't force good behavior in people, they've got to decide for themselves that this is what they want to do and they want to live a healthy life and maybe they've got to gain weight to decide to lose it. [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/15/11]
Millions Of Americans Live More Than One Mile From A Grocery Store And Don't Have Access To A Car
USDA: 2.3 Million U.S. Households "Live More Than A Mile From A Supermarket And Do Not Have Access To A Vehicle." From a 2009 report done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service:
• Of all U.S. households, 2.3 million, or 2.2 percent, live more than a mile from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle. An additional 3.4 million households, or 3.2 percent of all households, live between one-half to 1 mile and do not have access to a vehicle.
• Area-based measures of access show that 23.5 million people live in low-income areas (areas where more than 40 percent of the population has income at or below 200 percent of Federal poverty thresholds) that are more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. However, not all of these 23.5 million people have low income. If estimates are restricted to consider only low-income people in low-income areas, then 11.5 million people, or 4.1 percent of the total U.S. population, live in low-income areas more than 1 mile from a supermarket. [U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, June 2009]
Greater Access To Grocery Stores Is Associated With A Reduced Risk For Childhood Obesity
CDC: "Supermarket Access Is Associated With A Reduced Risk For Obesity." In a document discussing childhood obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that "supermarket access is associated with a reduced risk for obesity." Furthermore, "rural, minority, and lower-income neighborhoods" are most commonly affected by limited access to grocery stores:
Limited access to healthy affordable foods. Some people have less access to stores and supermarkets that sell healthy, affordable food such as fruits and vegetables, especially in rural, minority, and lower-income neighborhoods. Supermarket access is associated with a reduced risk for obesity. Choosing healthy foods is difficult for parents who live in areas with an overabundance of food retailers that tend to sell less healthy food, such as convenience stores and fast food restaurants. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4/21/11]
USDA: Food Stamp Participants Who Don't Shop At Supermarkets Buy Less Fresh Fruit, Vegetable, And Milk Than Those Who Do. From the USDA Economic Research Service report:
The study also examined food shopping behavior and the types of food purchased for SNAP participants and other low-income households. Data from the 1996/1997 NFSPS show that SNAP participants were, on average, 1.8 miles from the nearest supermarket. However, the average number of miles both SNAP participants and eligible nonparticipants traveled to the store most often used was 4.9 miles. These same data show that SNAP participants who did not shop at supermarkets purchased less noncanned fruit, noncanned vegetables, and milk than SNAP participants who shopped frequently at a supermarket. [U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, June 2009]
Obesity Is A Growing Epidemic Among Children In U.S.
CDC: "Approximately 17% Of Children ... Are Obese." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that "[a]bout one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese" and "[a]pproximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese." Moreover, the CDC points out that "no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%" in 2010. From the report:
About one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese.
Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2--19 years are obese.
During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7/21/11]
CDC: "The Medical Care Costs Of Obesity In The United States Are Staggering." The CDC says that overweight and obesity have a "significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system" and in 2008 "medical care costs of obesity" "totaled about $147 billion." From the report:
Overweight and obesity and their associated health problems have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system (USDHHS, 2001). Medical costs associated with overweight and obesity may involve direct and indirect costs (Wolf and Colditz, 1998; Wolf, 1998). Direct medical costs may include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to obesity. Indirect costs relate to morbidity and mortality costs. Morbidity costs are defined as the value of income lost from decreased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism, and bed days. Mortality costs are the value of future income lost by premature death.
The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3/28/11]
Media Matters intern Sean Dolan contributed to this item.