Roughly one in five San Francisco residents doesn’t have enough to eat, leading more than 100,000 per month to rely on the San Francisco Food Bank. A recent study found that even after building supermarkets in poor neighborhoods, many residents continue to rely on fast food restaurants, leading to preventable health problems. We discuss what some advocates are doing to improve the availability of healthy food.

Lena Miller, founder and co-executive director of Hunter's Point Family, a community-based development organization for at-risk Bayview Hunter's Point families
Cora E. Lewis, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Alabama's Comprehensive Diabetes Center
Christopher Cook, journalist and author of "Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis"

  • Lee Thé

    To deal with this problem, first you have to realize that our food preferences are instinctive, based on the supply/demand situation 100,000 years ago. Then, we needed some meat, some fat, some salt, some sweets. All were really hard to come by, so evolution gave us powerful desires for those things, so we could get the small amount we need. Now our instincts betray us, since all those things are easy to come by.

    Moreover, we can’t tell when we’ve eaten too much, because food back then had low calorie density, so we had to stuff ourselves to get enough. But it had so much roughage that stuffing ourselves only got us calories in the hundreds–not in the thousands, like now.

    And the less education people have, the more they’re going to go with their instincts–because we have another instinct that makes us trust our instincts over what anyone else tells us. Especially if that “someone else” is a stranger.

    So it’s probably hopeless.

  • George

    If people knew that they could and should eat (healthy) salt and fat, there would be much less a problem with nutrition and health.

  • Amit N

    Shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing don’t help. Most of the people on the show use coupons to buy the cheap high calorie foods which don’t help the situation. I’d much rather see an Extreme Healthy type show that would demonstrate how you can eat healthy for cheap since “organic” labeled foods tend to be overvalued and expensive

  • Natalie

    People are responsible for themselves, yes, BUT, when government food subsidies go largely into unto products that are highly processed and unhealthy so they are cheaper, that’s a problem!

  • Lee Thé

    I forgot to add that our instinctive appetite–our sense of how much food we need–is based on our body’s assumption that we’ll be active all day, including walking about 10 miles, just to pull a number out of the air, since before the invention of agriculture, small human bands would eat everything available nearby so they’d have to walk a long ways (by our standards) to get to somewhere with sufficient food for hunting and gathering.

    Virtually everything being discussed on this show isn’t going to change anything, because they have no idea what we are. So they’re building a house on sand. At least they realize that if you put a plate of healthy food in front of someone without education, and next to it a plate of junk food, 95% of the people will pick the plate of junk food.

    • Vibesman

      I can’t agree with you more.  I have tried personally and professionally to stem the tide, but I am growing old and cynical – I will never give up trying.

  • Wendy

    Choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is a great option.  It is a win win choice.  You eat healthier and pay less for groceries.  

    • George

      It’s not win-win; it’s loosing.  this is one reason people fail because they feel hungry.  it’s impossible to get the purine protein and fat soluble vitamins in plant foods. thus, is why you see lots of sick vegetarian/vegans (though they could likely have short term health benefits, only first due to cessation of junk/processed foods).  Don’t ever eat soy.

      • Wendy

        Protein is not a problem for vegetarians or vegans.  Nuts, beans, whole grains and even vegetables are an excellent inexpensive source of protein.  Saturated fats are unhealthy and have created major medical problems in our hospitals.  If we cut out the meat and animal sources, we cut out the saturated fats.  Organic soy is fine occasionally.  I have been a vegetarian for 3 years and never feel hungry.  I am constantly eating!  As for being sick, I am the same person as I always was.

    • Well, but there is a cost: You have to be a vegetarian or vegan which to many of us is a very unappealing option.

    • Lee Thé

      Great idea. The cat should absolutely have a bell on its neck.

  • victoria s.

    This is the kind of information that we need to hear. I am impressed with your guests!! Thank you! How can we reach more people with this kind of information? Is there a book? Would Ms. Miller be willing to help with seminars to help spread the word. I would be interested in doing something like this. . . How can I reach her?

  • Lesley

    The real problem seems to be the amount of food people eat, whether it’s healthy or not.

  • Having lived with both high and low income and in both areas that had easy and difficult access to good food, I firmly believe this is about priorities. I have always made eating good food a priority. Sometimes it meant not spending money on other things or spending a long time on buses getting to or from a good grocery store. Ultimately, once you know it’s there, it’s a choice. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing other things, but there are consequences for your actions.

  • Rose Kuiumgian, M.S.

    Your program is interesting but the entire food debate is stalled because as a society we have stopped trying to collectively put something in place for our own good.  We need an Occupy Food movement – to counteract the influence of the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the National Restaurant Association and other powerful interests that brainwash our children.   The merchandizing of our most basic economic activity, procuring and cooking food for our families and children has perverted our cherished goal of leading productive healthy lives.  I recommend Food Outs – start “outing” junk foods and junk merchants, whether they ply their wares in our schools, neighborhoods, etc. I have been part of this debate for 30 years and we have gone one step forward and ten steps back, all with complicity of our corrupt federal and state governments who pander to these merchandizers.
    Solution – use technology, social media, and just take each and every food choice to task – one person at a time, one meal at a time.. I do not favor the food police…but we need to borrow some tactics from the fight against tobacco – especially powerful messages to counter food advertising – show what neuropathy from diabetes look like – a pair of cracked dry feet will turn heads in our ‘shock’ and schlock society…

  • David Haskell

    Great discussion — a key for the Bay Area is to a create new governance framework. It is not going to happen at the State or Federal level as they are captured by special interests. Let’s create a Bay Area Food System Alliance Council to 1) create a common social marketing Healthy Food Campaign and 2) identify local polices that local governments – schools etc need to do now.

  • People are busy, sure.  They are busy watching television.   They have the time to prepare food.

    Also further restrict the food items available through food stamps.  

    Personal responsibility has many benefits.

  • Klincoln011

    In the words of Micheal Polln “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  The seven word guide to eating well.

  • Ricky in Berkeley

    My daughter is a single mother with 3 young children. When she was little we made the switch to healthy food and never looked back. Her children will pick fruit and fight over salad, but she is low income and when she has $5 left in her pocket after her food stamps run out, she goes to a fast food place and get a burger and fries for the children because that will fill them whereas some salad and fruit will not hold them long enough to go to sleep.
    Quinoa is maybe a healthier choice, but even I don’t buy it over organic brown rice because it costs twice as much and organic brown rice costs about 5 times as much as Ben’s converted yucky white rice. If your children are hungry…not having enough money is not having access to good food. A treat for my grandchildren is when my daughter brings home a pomegranate and they split it four ways. That happens maybe once a month or less.
    And let’s not forget the front of package labeling. If you go to the grocery store with the kids, they will come back with all kinds of junk from the shelves and tell you that it is healthy because they can read the big colorful labels on the front that say “Fruit” and “Healthy” when those labels are just lies.
    Ricky in Berkeley

  • The science is very clear, but policy implications are not at all. Every choice we make has trade-offs. Organic food is more expensive partially because of government subsidies but also because organic production processes forgo a lot of productive innovations. Cooking takes time which cannot be used for something else. Learning how to cook also takes time which also could be used for something else. That’s why the government is an inappropriate tool to tackle this issue. Civil society organizations can help people understand what is at stake and then let them make their own decisions as to what is more important to them.

  • Ladory
  • Lee Thé

    The show’s guests seem well-intentioned and knowledgeable about nutrition. Too bad their efforts are a waste of taxpayer dollars, since they will have a statistically insignificant impact on Hunter’s Point residents–largely because neither the guests nor the government agencies funding them have the slightest idea about how we evolved.

  • MC Yates

    Time to Occupy the Food System

  • Lee Thé

    The notion that sugar and salt are addictive is complete nonsense. These aren’t addictions. They’re porwerful instinctive desires that evolved in response to the situation in East Africa 100,000 years ago, and which have not changed despite the radically different situation we live in today.

    In computer science there’s the idea of GIGO–Garbage In, Garbage Out. Faulty premises lead to faulty conclusions.

  • Erasmus

    Caller “Amanda”: I’m an educated person: (addictable).  Virtual reality –faulty analogy…4 ingredients relies on assumption that those 4 ingredients are healthy…could it occur to her back then it was 100% buttermilk fat and 100% pure sugar and 2 other ingredients…


  • Pakshi

    One of your panelist mentioned that “cheap (inexpensive) food is often the unhealthiest”. We must step back and think why? Nature does not do this. We do it.

    Fast and Unhealthy Food is cheaper for two reasons: 
    1. efficiency gains in production process
    2. demand for it. 

    If we increase the demand for healthy food across the country (not just Bay View/ Hunters Point), by increasing awareness, then food makers will figure out how to deliver healthy food cheap.

    For Christmas gift, give books – Food Inc, Eating animals. These books CHANGE the readers. Give DVDs for the reading challenged. They are even more compelling.

    • Bibhudatta Chaudhury

      i think cheap food also has to do with govt subsidies for the raw materials

  • Erasmus

    In 1998 most of the kids regular body forms…14 years later body shape has changed…

    LOL, maybe the kids you see going through your center are *SHOCK* different individuals????

  • Aaw216

    Transportation is a big contributor: many people can’t afford to maintain a car (cost of regualr insurance) because they’re underemployed or underpaid, and many seniors don’t drive . Public transit usually doesn’t go straight to a good grocery store so it’s very inconvenient. Some of the community groups in low-income areas should organize/fund shuttles to the best, closest grocery store for those without a car.

  • Ruth

    Regarding the discussion on healthy food availability, I didn’t hear one word about farmers’ markets where you can get locally grown, fresh, inexpensive food?  And where they’re located and when? In Sacramento, we have a variety to choose from throughout the week.  

    • Ricky in Berkeley

      Truth is, here in Berkeley at least, the farmer’s market does not offer fresh inexpensive food. It is just as expensive or more than what I can get at Berkeley bowl and it is very inconvenient. The only time I can go is on Saturdays and there is no parking anywhere. I usually ride my bike around, but not grocery shopping for a family of 7.

  • Julie123

    Good program as always, but it would be nice if the host Dave would stop trying to make comments for his guests, and just let them talk.  We know that you are intelligent, but you’re the MODERATOR, not the GUEST!

  • Bibhudatta Chaudhury

    I hear you talking about lower income groups eating poorly. Are the middle class eating good food? 
    I am in the middle class and I meet lot of my peers and friends who cook very little, often warm up frozen foods, they eat out (or take out) a that healthy? Very few bother to shop at farmers markets … because you have to cook if you buy from there! Its easier (and cheaper if one includes opportunity cost of labor!) to get food from the restaurant.I often joke that Thanksgiving is the only time in the year America uses its fancy kitchens. I think its got to do with lifestyle – double income families few kids… too much time spent at work, following earthly pleasures….cooking is  misplaced priorities. Comments?

  • Mari Suzuki

    The biggest problem our society face is not the lack of nutritional and cooking education, but lack of time AND especially lack of cooking method that’s easy and convenient enough for busy people to use on a regular basis.  Thus ppl rely on fast food and prepared food to “save time” that makes obesity issue even worse. It’s a vicious cycle. 

    Plus food manufacturers add flavorings that makes us crave their food more. (very interesting but scary report on 60 min about it.  This is what we are up against.  We need to be personally responsible for our food choices and amount we eat, because it’s not the food manufacturers’ business to make you healthier.  and if you wait for the govt, you’ll be waiting for a loooooooong time. But you can change YOUR food now, at home by cooking.

    Many ppl in the US believe cooking takes time, difficult and only for those who’s “talented”.  It’s not true, if you know how to cook more efficiently and logically.  And think about it, 50 yrs+ ago, everyone cooked, and barely anyone went to culinary school! 

    We need to see the bigger picture when we cook — what we cook today may save you lots of time later in the week by transforming them to different dishes.  This means you can start cooking from step 3, saving 15 – 20 min each day compared with conventional recipes.  Plus this will reduce food waste significantly.

    95% of Japanese homes whip up a seasonal spread of tasty dishes everyday from their postage-stamp sized kitchen of merely 2 burners, 1 small sink and no counter space, oven nor dishwasher, using the ingredients that are 3-4 times more expensive. Because of this, their obesity rate is the lowest in developed country, their life expectancy the highest in the world. It’s because they cook regularly, and they know how to do it super efficiently in very limited resources.

    By using the same simple method, even the busy Americans can cook, and eat much healthier. It’s just a matter of thinking and cooking differently, it works for any cuisine or diet.  My cookbook, “Kitchen Wizard Flexipes” explains how busy Americans too can cook great food without spending lots of time in the kitchen.

    It’s about the priority, especially for middle-class Americans. As some ppl commented, ppl do have time to watch Food Network for hours over delivered pizza, get hungry even more over those food created by celebrity chefs, and eat a whole gallon of ice cream.  A vicious cycle.  But with a right cooking method, anyone can do it.

  • Alisonrloomis

    Rethinking the way we feed ourselves is one of the most powerful starting points for solutions to global environmental and social problems. How we farm, what we eat, and how our food gets to the table all have an impact. When more people start understanding these connections, this triggers public demand for healthier (more affordable) options in communities.  Start with the kids. Every school should have a food garden that they tend, healthy cooking classes/ lessons, and healthy cafeteria food. If our kids understand how McD’s  plagues countries with obesity, deforestation, pesticide-ridden water, trash, green house gases–their is hope for some postive change in public health and food systems.
    Alison L.

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