Malnutrition is a social issue most are familiar with. However, the rising rate of obesity has been commonly overlooked although it is almost just as pressing a problem, and is thus now an epidemic. More often than not, it leads to life threatening and transforming diseases – hypertension, diabetes, cancer and a variety of cardiac problems, just to name a few from a disturbingly extensive list. It affects more than just an individual’s health and arguably, aesthetic appeal – it even perturbs society as a whole. America spent well over $147 billion in 2009 on healthcare for this entirely preventable condition – the result of fast-food chains dominating the food industry and reduction of food prices which has led to products for consumption becoming increasingly unhealthy and highly processed.
After decades of aborted attempts and debate, The United States Senate has, alas, passed a healthcare reform bill. With so much importance placed on healthcare in America by her President Barack Obama, what better time than now for social enterprises to step into the open market to make a truly remarkable difference? As obesity and food consumption share an undeniably intimate relationship, it is really no wonder that obesity rates have shot up significantly since unhealthily convenient meals and snacks with lesser nutrition have become so easily attainable and I admit, tempting.
While the recently passed bill deals with the consequences of obesity, prevention is always better than cure, and this is where social enterprises can play their part. Social entrepreneurs or enterprises can set up small businesses or if possible even come together to start a chain of eateries to sell organic or healthier food. While merely one shop at the crook of a street might at best only marginally improve the health of its few frequent customers who live nearby, there is certain strength in numbers. When organic food eateries start populating the food industry, popping up in every town, city, and state, there is a high chance that an organic food commodity and frenzy might catch on. It might take years or even decades for these eateries to be of any challenge to fastfood powerhouses like Macdonalds, Burger King or Hungry Jacks, and Pizza Hut, but there is a good chance it might happen if the proposed healthier food alternatives are marketed well enough, and if they are as convenient and delicious-tasting as those oil-teeming burgers and fries are.
We cannot forget that social entrepreneurs are still entrepreneurs after all, and the idea of setting up a business from scratch is rather risky monetarily. For entrepreneurs who do not want to jump into an open sea with unpredictable tide, they can invest in local food systems which produce more organic crops or food that is more beneficial to the human body, so the fastfood giants will less monopolize the food industry.
It is important that the rate of obesity declines, for if it does not, it will decrease general productivity of a society and lower rates of mortality. It puzzles me as much as it saddens me, how one side of this incomprehensible world has too much calories and how the other has none. It is very heartcrushing, when there is obviously enough to go around. Sharing is a virtue. It is.
Just sharing my two cents worth.