Oakland struggles with high obesity rates

July 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study shows obesity is increasing and costing California billions. In one Oakland neighborhood residents are struggling to make healthy eating choices because they don't have many options.

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There are more liquor stores than grocery stores in West Oakland, and fast food is easier to come by than fresh produce.

"You got chicken, Chinese food, McDonalds," said West Oakland resident Todd Walker.

Those are the dining options Todd Walker can walk to, something nutritionists and city leaders battling the obesity epidemic want to change.

At a USDA summit underwayin Oakland, the question on the table is how to improve nutrition and access to healthy foods in low-income communities.

The conclusion: there isn't an easy answer.

"It's a very real issue. How do you get quality food that's healthy for people, that allows them to have healthy choices," said Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

But it's also expensive. A new report says obesity and physical inactivity cost California $41 billion a year.

That report by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy ranks Alameda County high on the list of counties that pay the most for health care costs and loss of productivity related to obesity -- $2.2 billion a year followed closely by Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.

The Mandela Foods Cooperative opened last month. It tries to fill the void in West Oakland by offering healthy choices

"The only other choices are the corner stores and liquor stores mostly, and it's very limited in what you can get," said Dennis Terry from Mandela Foods Cooperative.

Some residents wonder if the only choices available to them involve fast food and junk food, is it really a choice?

"A lot of kids are totally overweight because this is all they got. They can't go anywhere else," said Walker.

Related Links:

  • Obesity costs in California
  • Obesity costs in California counties

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