Obesity is a countrywide problem In Bexar County, close to 66 percent of adults are overweight or obese. But in a city of close to 2 million people, are San Antonians really to blame? Or is it the urban layout of their neighborhoods?
When you look at the both the West and East sides of town, there’s a stark difference not just economically but compare the number of fast food restaurants to the number of grocery stores, and it’s alarming.
Westside activist Eignio Rodriguez says you can drive up and down his neighborhood, and take your pick at fast food restaurants, a change that’s happened in the last 30 years.
“I really hadn’t paid attention to the amount of [fast food restaurants] we have, but it makes sense why Hispanics on this side of town are overweight.” he said. “When I was a kid we traveled all the way down to South Military for fried chicken, a treat for us…which at the time was like going out of town… but now it’s at every corner.”
In fact, when you break down obesity rates for minorities, the numbers are even more disproportionate. In Bexar County 27 percent of Hispanic and black children are obese while only 12 percent of white children are obese.
Eastside activist and resident, Lou Miller says that’s because urban areas don’t have the same options. Even though prices for fruits and vegetables are going up all over the country, he says the quality of food being sold at urban grocery stores don’t compare.
“When the food gets brown on the Northside [of town] they bring it over to W.W. White [grocery stores] and they pour seasoning over it like paprika and they tell you ‘oh now it’s perfect for bar-b-quing,’” he said. “People will tell you it’s a gets the law for us to move old food or food that’s almost expired to another side of town, but they do it.”
Rodriquez says he agrees about the quality of food grocery stores in urban areas have compared to suburbs. For fun, he says he often travels to grand openings of new stores just to compare.
“I wanted to see [the new store] on the Northside, and we were amazed when we got there,” Rodriguez said. “There was no waiting inline. There was just one person in front of us and they opened another register…we bought the same stuff and it was like we went to the valley of the giants. Their oranges were like cantaloupes, their tomatoes were like monsters. We were like ‘whoa where in the world are we’, it was amazing.”
Tommy Calvert, an Eastside resident himself and a candidate for the Bexar County Commissioners Court says with new development happening on both sides of town, there leaves an even bigger opportunity to make all the negative, into a win-win for everyone.
"For those folks who are on a tighter income, they look at the high cost of fruits and vegetables and that’s why they’re turning to cheetos because it’s a bit too high for them,” Calvert said. “But there’s an opportunity to develop community gardens, farmers markets, all kinds of healthier options… it leaves the doors open for health conscious business owners to occupy these neighborhoods and give residents options.”
Unlike other big Texas cities, San Antonio falls short, Miller said.
In Houston and Dallas, not only does their urban layout rival ours, but they provide shuttles to their supermarkets, letting people stock up on healthy food without worrying about traveling with it on public transportation, he continued.
“Provide [the urban areas] with the stores, provide them with the convenience, and the ability to get there, and we’ll manage to come up with the money, but make it available,” Miller said.