Being fat can be caused by not having enough to eat and by being poor. Budget-constrained people eat a lot of junk food because they are not in a position to make healthy food choices. If they live day-to-day on low incomes they will gravitate to pubs and fast food outlets. This is particularly harmful for children of the poor who come to see potato chips and soft drink as food. Poor parents may not be able to afford to feed kids decent high-nutrient food and may end up providing them with the standard high carbohydrate poisons that leave them obese with the danger of diabetes. People in developed countries without access to adequate food tend to be overweight. Partly this is due to lack of information and opportunity but also MacDonalds is an affordable treat for the poor.
As a junk-food food case study, doughnuts are nutritionally barren. They are high in carbohydrates, fat and salt and contain dangerous transfats. To burn off the calories added by a single plain doughnut you must walk for more than 30 minutes. I’ve never liked doughuts even as ‘treats’ because they taste overly sugary and often seem to be stale. We have better food produce than this in Australia.
The US doughnut producer Krispy Kreme (much beloved by the heroic loser Homer Simpson) has been criticized for worsening obesity in Britain and has now arrived in Australia. An article in The Age (‘Krispy keeps us korpulant’) sets out the nutritional implications of this food and also explains where these stores are locating. Yes, almost all are in areas of socio-economic disadvantage. In Sydney 12 of 16 planned stores are in highly disadvantaged areas ranked 2-13 in the ABS list of 44 metropolitan councils. The first store in Victoria - at Narre Warren – is in the 10th most disadvantaged area in Melbourne.
Junk food enclaves in poor areas will worsen Australian’s future mortality due to obesity and diabetes. They will increase our national health bill and so should be taxed to internalize public sector health cost externalities. Most importantly, people who enter these stores must be provided with accurate information on the crap they are feeding themselves. 3-4 doughnuts can provide 75% of daily required calories, up to 108 grams of sugar and 96 grams of fat. The impact of eating 4 doughnuts with a coke is equivalent to eating 38 teaspoons of refined sugar. This is a plausibly horrific, meal for many kids. Parents and children should be aware of these facts both at the point of sale of such foods and in schools.
It is pointless to ban soft-drinks in schools if school kids can ingest more sugar from legally-supplied junk such as doughnuts. No-one likes the nanny state telling us what to eat but stores such as Krispy Kreme are a social negative. We need to bankrupt them by coupling hefty taxes on the poisons they supply that capture the costs to society of the people they help to damage, by providing consumers wiuth information on the effects of eating such so-called 'food' and by providing consumers with the education and the opportunities to buy non-junk food.