Shifting the focus from the regional level to the city level, the numbers change little. Men's Fitness magazine publishes an annual study of the cities in the country with the most people who are overweight. The editors use several criteria including air and water quality, availability of parks and open spaces, drinking alcoholic beverages, length of commute, percentage of overweight and sedentary residents, smoking, and sports participation. And the magazine added number of fast-food restaurants as an additional factor for the first time in 2006. Though the magazine's results are not based on strictly scientific study methods, they are worth noting because they offer a different array of data. While Las Vegas earned the number one ranking in 2007, four of the top ten of the fattest cities were in Texas again: Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso.
In New York City, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found a lack of healthy foods in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Those areas have some of the city's highest obesity rates. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, for example, 30 percent of adults are obese, while the average city rate is 20 percent. The agency reported that only one in three bodegas (small corner Hispanic markets, which are often the main food shopping locations in neighborhoods that lack larger supermarkets) in Bedford-Stuyvesant sold reduced-fat milk, even though 90 percent of the surrounding supermarkets stocked alternatives like Lactaid or 1% or 2% milk. Alarmed at the makeup of the standard bodega's offerings, the city began promoting a milk program in neighborhoods like central Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Harlem.
The report also revealed that bodegas were much less likely than supermarkets to stock fruits and vegetables. While the majority of bodegas and supermarkets carry some kind of fresh fruit, only 21 percent of the bodegas in Bedford-Stuyvesant offered apples, oranges, and bananas. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale were found in only 6 percent of the bodegas surveyed. When asked, bodega owners were honest in their replies: They did not carry healthier foods because they didn't sell well. "Not their fault" was the explanation. And we wonder why our Hispanic neighbors suffer disproportionately from obesity and diabetes.