jsnuka

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Refugees taught how to eat American food
By Ian Brimacombe
BBC News, Chicago


In a classroom on Chicago's north side, nutritionist Bindi Desai points at a sign of an obese man holding a hamburger with a pained expression on his face.


"This guy is overweight," she says, explaining that this is because he eats too much fast food and drinks cola.
"And guess what happens?" she asks. "Inside his body there are lots of problems."

At a table, a dozen or so refugees - most of them from Africa - sit and nod. Some smile and chat among themselves. They appear to get the picture.

This workshop on how to eat American food responsibly is part of an Illinois state-funded programme to improve the nutrition of refugees who are being re-settled in the land of plenty.

"First we are most concerned about whether they will understand how to eat American food," says Shana Willis, with the non-profit refugee resettlement agency Heartland, one of the project co-ordinators.

"They did not only not understand how to eat American food, but they went immediately to the junk food and it was then that we realised, this is going to have a much more important impact than we anticipated."

Culture shock

One of the major challenges for organisers is to change the way the refugees think about food. Many of the new arrivals suffered from malnutrition and came from places where food was scarce.


I have been here just a few months and its very disorientating... Where will I find dates to break my Ramadan fasting? And, where do I get halal goat meat?
Refugee at the workshop
Some want to make up for a lifetime in which they were denied meat. Others gravitate towards the fizzy orange drink and crisps, believing they are a great source of vitamins.
And there is plain culture shock.

"I have been here just a few months and its very disorientating," says one man through a translator. "Where will I find dates to break my Ramadan fasting? And, where do I get halal goat meat?"

In mid-western Chicago, the answer is not obvious.

During the workshop Ms Desai holds up a plastic prop of a piece of broccoli.

"How many vegetables do you eat in the day?" she asks the class.

One man says something quietly.

"He eats nothing!" exclaims one woman, giggling - "He eats no vegetables!"

"Oh-oh," says Ms Desai.

Shopping tips

She asks the class how much pasta is in a serving. One man puts out his whole arm and points to his wrist.


When they first come, there is a lot of hoarding - more than they need... So I tell them it won't run out - in fact it will spoil
Bindi Desai
"No," she says, "one serving is a cupped hand."
"If you only eat one time, maybe the arm is okay."

Aside from presenting the workshops, Ms Desai pays home visits to help steer the refugees towards smart shopping.

"When they first come, there is a lot of hoarding," she says. "More than they need."

"So I tell them it won't run out - in fact it will spoil," she explains.

Ms Desai weeds through their cupboards, encouraging the beans, pasta and vegetables and discouraging the junk food.

But teaching shopping tips sometimes is not enough. Many of the refugees are living in Chicago's poorer neighbourhoods and they can have difficulty finding healthy food. So Ms Desai also organises grocery store tours.

She says she sees evidence in the cupboards that her lessons are making a difference.

Learning

Organisers say the project has been so successful with African populations arriving in the United States, that it will be expanded to incorporate other refugee groups, with renewed funding from the state.

Back at the workshop, Ms Desai is wrapping up.

"Did you learn anything?" she asks.

One man raises his hand. "Eat too much food and you get fat," he says.

"That's right," says Ms Desai.

Another man joins in and says: "Salt not good. Sugar not good. Oil not good. Fat not good. Blood pressure, heart problems. Yup, Yup."

Ms Desai laughs and says: "Very good. You're learning our slang."


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/5216960.stm

Published: 2006/07/31 07:20:02 GMT
 

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jsnuka said:
..This workshop on how to eat American food responsibly is part of an Illinois state-funded programme..
Your tax dollars at work.

(Edited at the request of the moderator.)
 

velo

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Panda Bear said:
Your tax dollars at work.

(Edited at the request of the moderator.)
Perhaps, but it could also be cost-effective if the reduced rates of DM, CAD, HTN, etc lessen the burden on the healthcare system to the tune of the cost of this program...
 
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McDoctor

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This almost reads like something from The Onion.

Are these mentally ******ed refugees? If not, why is this nutritionist talking to them like a bunch of schoolkids? Why does this program just assume that they will not grasp the concept that 1000 calorie McDonalds meals will make them fat?
 

southerndoc

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McDoctor said:
This almost reads like something from The Onion.

Are these mentally ******ed refugees? If not, why is this nutritionist talking to them like a bunch of schoolkids? Why does this program just assume that they will not grasp the concept that 1000 calorie McDonalds meals will make them fat?
Live the life of a starved individual, where you're not sure where your next meal will come from, and then suddenly get planted amidst all the food in the world, and you're guaranteed to overindulge.

What happens when people are broke and then suddenly win the lottery? They splurge like crazy buying a new home (or homes), cars, etc.

With money, it doesn't matter if you splurge because it doesn't affect your health. Overeating does.
 

Chinorean

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McDoctor said:
This almost reads like something from The Onion.

Are these mentally ******ed refugees? If not, why is this nutritionist talking to them like a bunch of schoolkids? Why does this program just assume that they will not grasp the concept that 1000 calorie McDonalds meals will make them fat?
They don't know it's 1000s of calories. Actually it seems like Americans didn't realize until recently that eating fast food all the time would make their kids fat, so I guess refugees would be no different.
 

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I'm glad this program exists! I was once (for a year) a middle school teacher, and you'd be suprised how much the kids (and their parents) DO NOT KNOW about nutrition. I had 13 and 14 year old students who were much heavier than I! My biggest student (who had no friends and lots of problems) was over 100 pounds heavier than I! And he was 14! If these refugees stay healthy, it'll be cheaper for us in the long run; treating obesity costs too much damn money and resources.
 

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It seems to be the case that most cultures isolated from us have far better nuitrition and lower rates of obesity, heart disease, etc. However, when those cultures are exposed to the American way of life -- directly through immigration, or indirectly through cultural exchange -- the aforementioned problems tend to spike. This is happening in Japan now, after many years.

Early intervention makes sense.
 

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Panda Bear said:
Your tax dollars at work.

(Edited at the request of the moderator.)
Better than spending millions on them when they and their families develop heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure etc, isn' t it? Prevention is always the better option than the alternative.

My parents immigrated here from China in the 80's. Since meat was scarce in China at that time, we definitely over-indulged on that, and I had ice-cream every night for the next four years because it was a rare treat in China. I think we went through a packet of 30 eggs or more per week for a family of three.

Yes, my parents were biologists yet plop them down in a land of plenty and they definitely developed a couple of bad eating habits. However, they eventually came to realize that was unhealthy how we ate and cut back.

For poor refugees who have neither the knowledge or financial resources to have a balanced diet, this type of program sounds like a great way to prevent unhealthy eating practices from starting. I think people have this mistaken impression that living in a land of plenty, starving people will automatically solve their own problems and start eating healthy. However, in developing nations, obesity is becoming a problem as families make a jump within one generation from starvation to overabundance. In some ways, these same refugees are experiencing similar problems.

I also want to point out that in China, where 30 years ago, hospitals still remembered starving patients, now have opened up their own fat farms. Grandparents who remembered going hungry as children now overfeed their grandkids with parental approval because the traditional ideal of a fat child is deeply ingrained. The government in China is currently trying to counteract that idea by stressing healthy eating over over-indulging (to deaf ears it seems).
 

jocg27

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Chinorean said:
They don't know it's 1000s of calories. Actually it seems like Americans didn't realize until recently that eating fast food all the time would make their kids fat, so I guess refugees would be no different.
Lots of Americans still don't realize it.
 
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