Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

It’s Not All Bad News in Mississippi June 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alicia @ 5:35 pm

Mississippi has been marred with label of having the most obese children in the nation. Over forty-four percent of Mississippi children between the ages of 10 and 17 are obese or overweight.  Mississippi also has one of the highest percentages of African-American people out of all fifty states. Therefore it would be safe to assume that many of these children being affected by overweight and obesity are African-American or children of color. In a state surrounded by farmland it is hard to imagine that food-deserts would exist and yet they do. Food deserts are not unique to big cities and “urban” areas, they exist in every corner of our country even where the farmland is abundant and the soil is rich.

But it’s not all bad news. I continue to read article after article about community efforts to increase the amount of healthy, fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains available to these food deserts. Community and Urban Gardens are leading the way.  The video below is of one of these gardens. This garden touches my heart especially because the children are given the opportunity to take part in the process of growing and cultivating their own crops. It not only gives them a sense of pride but a higher propensity to eat fresh fruits and vegetables for life.

I tried to insert the video but unfortunately I keep on doing something wrong so here’s the link on youtube:


12 Responses to “It’s Not All Bad News in Mississippi”

  1. Alicia, thank you so much for sharing this story. There’s so much there to comment on. What moved me the most (probably because I took my 1st bike ride today in 1+ years ) were the images of so many children and adults biking (and a few on rollerblades). i love it! This video is such an important counter to the overabundance of content that claims that individuals who are past a particular weight don’t exercise.

    chocolate & arugula

  2. Sarra Says:

    Oh, honestly, must we continue to buy the scientifically-baseless obesity myths? Must they be perpetuated in this space, too? Obesity is not the death sentence American society has convinced everyone it is. All bodies are different. Some people are tall, some are fat, some are freckled, some are short, thin, brunette, et cetera, et cetera. Can this please be a space where misinformation isn’t further disseminated and fat isn’t demonized?

    Furthermore, obesity/”overweight” (over what weight, exactly?) and veganism are not mutually exclusive. Veganism isn’t the magic bullet that makes fat disappear in bodies that are meant to be fat. Also, fat vegans exist. Fat vegans who do everything “right” and eat everything “right” EXIST. Speaking about obesity and veganism as if they couldn’t possibly exist in the same body erases my very existence, and the existence of fresh fruit- and vegetable-eating fat vegans everywhere.

  3. Alicia Says:

    Veganism isn’t confined to a singular issue. The success of programs like this is introducing fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains to a community that has access to none of these items. In a perfect world everyone would have the tools they need to go vegan at their fingertips but when the simplicities of vegan food (and a balanced diet in general) aren’t available this is an unrealistic expectation. Vital nutrients are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds and grains many that aren’t found in meat and certainly aren’t found in high sodium packed processed foods. Movements towards adding fresh plant foods to areas that are traditionally food deserts is a step in the process. Its a step in the right direction and it thrills me.

    No where did I assert or imply that veganism equals health or a healthy weight but the correlation between a vegan diet and lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes is clear. Please feel free to refer to the well researched ADA Position Paper on Veg*n Diets. I posted this on this blog over a year ago.

    Additionally the correlation between obesity and heart disease, stroke and diabetes is clear. Yes people within a healthy weight also have these problems but at a significantly lower weight than those who are obese.

    • Sarra Says:

      “Additionally the correlation between obesity and heart disease, stroke and diabetes is clear.”
      No, it’s not. It’s not even remotely clear. The science DOES NOT SUBSTANTIATE IT. Read “The Obesity Myth”. Read “Health At Every Size”. Read “Fat!So?”. Read “Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere”. Read actual objective interpretations of the actual science.
      Or, you know, don’t. Believe common but erroneous nonsense assertions. Believe fear-mongering. Instead of reading and then responding to my actual points, condescendingly lecture a fellow vegan and ally on intersectionality as if she’s so stupid and clueless she’s not already aware that “veganism isn’t confined to a singular issue”. If I thought that veganism WAS confined to a single issue, would I even be aware of this blog? Honestly.

      Your patronizing tone, repetition of the diet industry’s propaganda, implied insistence in the rightness of your original post despite the objection of this blog’s founder, and utter failure to address or even acknowledge the actual thrust of my comment has left a horrible taste in my mouth. I am actually, literally sorry that I bought your book as soon as it came out. I can’t imagine ever using it at this point without feeling sick; I’ll donate it to a thrift store. I’m an obese vegan anyway, so clearly I never eat real, whole, home-prepared foods, plus I’m sure to keel over from several obesity-caused diseases before I can use it fully.

      What a painful, disheartening post this was.

      • Alicia Says:

        It’s unfortunate that you have tried to twist my words into a personal attack against you. My tone was not patronizing or industry propaganda. Furthermore no where did I even get close to saying that you were “stupid and clueless” – that is offensive in every sense of the word. And it is sad that you would take it there. Vegan or not, person of color or not, I respect all people as individuals, period. How dare you assert otherwise. I made no personal attacks against you. I have nothing against you. I don’t live my life to sell books, so if you are trying to punish me for having an opinion based on the facts by threatening to give my book to a thrift store then the threat falls on deaf ears. I will not change what I know and bend to what you want me to say (as opposed to what I believe) just because I wrote a book.

        It is my opinion and an opinion based on mountains of scientifically sound literature. My life is dedicated to health, nutrition and wellness. I’m not a lay person making these assertions this is my profession. I literally have stacks of medical journals sitting by my bed right now and articles upon articles based on evidenced based medicine that support my original post and my reply.

        I did not feel the need to respond to your point that “Veganism isn’t the magic bullet that makes fat disappear in bodies that are meant to be fat. Also, fat vegans exist.” Because that is more than obvious and I never said anything that even closely implied that veganism was. In fact I GAINED weight in my first 6 months of being vegan so I would be the last person to say that veganism is the key to weight loss. It’s actually one of my greatest annoyances. I hate when people use veganism as a weight loss tool – it infuriates me to no end because it takes a complex, ethically based lifestyle and turns it into another trend which is appalling. This post wasn’t about weight loss at all but about the steps that this community is making to healthier choices. As I said before I would love for the entire world to be vegan but there are so many complex issues that prevent that from happening. If someone can’t even get an apple or leaf of lettuce in their neighborhood then that problem needs to be addressed before anything else. You seem to be taking my post extremely personal as if i set out to attack you. I never said that you or any other obese person doesn’t eat “real, whole, home-prepared foods”. You won’t be able to find that statement because I never said it or implied it. This blog post focused on the people of Mississippi and the food deserts there that are contributors to not only obesity but poor health in general – vegan or not. A life with no fruits or vegetables is not going to be a healthy one whether you eat a plant based diet or an omnivorous diet. That fact has nothing to do with obesity and everything to do with just general health. Therefore it is inspiring to see these changes happening in Mississippi and around the country. It’s a joy to see people reclaim their communities through things like urban and community gardens. The tone of my blog is clearly of hope, optimism and happiness. The tone of my blog is clearly to shine a positive light on what many have dubbed a negative situation. Too many times you (not you personally you as in the collective) hear these statistics and pass judgment on the people behind them. This blog post and video were written to make people realize that there are people behind these statistics and that there are complex reasons behind those statistics and that these wonderful people are taking the initiative to make their lives more healthy and despite their surroundings. Like others who have commented on this blog post I see it as an inspiring story and a step in the right direction.

  4. Nice post! Thanks for sharing this. I will see the youtube video now.

  5. Mega Says:

    Thank you for posting this. It speaks to how economics sometimes creates situations where obesity and poor health are likely. Food desserts and the lack of fresh foods are an issue for both vegans and omnivores, especially in the inner city and rural America. African Americans have been increasingly more at risk to these situations than mainstream society, and it is good to see that some attention is being paid to these problems.

  6. ourveganpregnancy Says:

    Alicia, I also gained weight while vegan and always try to inform people when they tell me they want to “go vegan” (more like follow a plant based diet) merely to lose weight that it might not happen. Unfortunately PETA and other animal “rights” corporations perpetuate the myth that veganism, and veganism alone, will make one “skinny”, nevermind the existence of a wide variety of body types and the existence of an abundance of fatty junk food that contains no animal derived ingredients. That is not to say that a whole food plant-based diet, if one has access to it, cannot contribute to what is considered to be an ideal weight for any given body type. But that is not necessarily veganism, which is actually a principled stance against animal exploitation.
    Anyways, I found your post to be quite inspiring. The vegan movement should be at the forefront of the food justice or food sovereignty movement as it was back in the day.

    Thank you!

    PS – The film “The Garden” is worth a watch if you haven’t watched it already.

  7. meridith Says:

    I am glad to see that issues of food justice are being brought to greater attention. Rather than twisting the original blog post author’s words around — at no point does Alicia call out overweight people or conflate veganism to skinniness — direct some of that ire to talking heads/fat shamers like MeMe Roth, and the Skinny Bitch and Meat is for Pussies books that use sexism to sell vegan diets.

    Personally when I went vegan I was obese. I started cooking using more whole foods and less processed items. With a change in my cooking routine I ended up losing weight. My partner, who has a small frame and doesn’t need to lose weight, gained weight. My experience has confirmed that relying less on packaged and processed foods and eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. contributes to overall improved health. How fortunate I am that I live within walking distance to a large grocery and am a short drive away from specialty food stores. Not everyone has these options, as the NewsHour video points outs.

  8. wow great post. i tell ya it’s expensive being poor. it’s true, like the woman said in the video, it’s rare to see vegetable/ fruit home gardens like i used to see sprinkled here and there. only seniors do it as long as they can until their bodies don’t allow it anymore. there are more fast food joints in the neighborhood than it used to be and the grocery sections have been greatly reduced to make room for more processed/ frozen selections.
    you’re right on in your post and the comments. how can you do better when the better isn’t available? as a person who is doing her sad attempt at a garden, i have to buy food until that sad garden is ready for harvest. it takes money for transportation to even get to the food.

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