Raising Chickens: An Unexpected Weapon in the Fight Against Poverty and Obesity
Statistics show that both poverty and obesity are on the rise and that the two are closely linked. In September of 2011, the Census Bureau reported that another 2.6 million people have slipped into poverty in the United States, which is the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing these figures. With economic hardship comes the increasing difficulty of providing nutritious food for families. “Lack of access to nutritional foods in low-income communities has led to poor diets, which are high in caloric intake but inadequate in nutrients” notes Basil Hallberg, an urban planner. This is where poverty and obesity overlap as they disproportionately affect low-income households and communities. The link between poverty and obesity was also noted in a study from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report notes higher obesity rates nationally among low-income adults. “More than 33% of adults who earn less than $15,000 per year were obese, compared with 24.6% of those who earn at least $50,000 per year,” the authors state. In 2003, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that obesity is the nation’s number one health problem. Unfortunately, the situation is predicted to worsen with rising childhood obesity rates worldwide. Recently there has also been a move to include obesity as a third form of malnutrition. “Considering obesity as malnutrition expands the previous usual meaning of the term, which referred to poor nutrition due to lack of food inputs. It is poor nutrition, but it is certainly not typically due to a lack of calories, but rather too many (although poor food choices, often due to poverty, are part of the problem)” notes WorldHunger.org.
While local, national and international governments struggle to address this growing issue, communities all over the world have been banding together to form community gardens to provide nutritious food for the poor. Community gardens can bring fresh, delicious food choices to neighborhoods where fruits, vegetables and healthy protein sources are often unaffordable or only available in stores a long drive or bus ride away, which is a genuine hardship for busy, hard-working families.
How do chickens fit in you might ask? Chickens are a natural fit with community gardens because they provide an economical source of protein. In fact, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization rated eggs as a more efficient source of protein than the other four top sources, higher in value than cow’s milk, fish, beef, or soybeans. In addition to being a healthy source of food, chickens benefit the garden by producing manure for fertilizer and compost, plus serving as mobile weed and bug control. Chickens provide all of these benefits on a small footprint, which is an advantage to urban gardens. Austin’s own Sunshine Community Gardens, which was featured on the 2011 Funky Chicken Coop Tour, has a chicken coop and number of plots that are set aside as designated gardens to grow fresh produce for the Micah 6 Food Bank.
With this in mind, Austin's 2012 The Funky Chicken Coop Tour® decided to benefit Austin’s Green Corn Project with a portion of our proceeds. The Green Corn Project creates organic food gardens for elderly, low-income, and disabled community members, as well as for elementary schools, community centers, and shelters in underserved areas of Austin. We at The Funky Chicken Coop Tour® are proud to be associated with this organization, which works hard to make fresh and healthy food available to everyone in Austin.
We hope you will help spread the word about Funky Chicken Coop Tour and the Green Corn Project as we work together to create a healthier, more sustainable community.
The Funky Chicken Coop Tour® is self-guided tour which will run from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, on Saturday, April 7, 2012. For more information go to: http://austincooptour.org.