Infographic: Untangling The Web Of Poverty, Obesity, And Food

The country’s most overweight people often live in places where there isn’t access to healthy things to eat. And if there was, they probably couldn’t afford it anyway.

We’ve written a lot about the idea of food deserts, places in this country where there just isn’t that much–if any–fresh food available to buy. This can often mean skyrocketing obesity rates, as the residents of these food deserts are, out of necessity, forced to eat bad, processed foods because that’s all there is. Food deserts, for the most part, affect poor people. There aren’t a lot of wealthy neighborhoods without supermarkets stocked with glistening produce. This new infographic, by Jess3 for CauseShift, attempts to draw some more concrete connections between poverty and obesity, and also highlights another concept: food insecurity.


Food insecurity is a simple idea. A food insecure household sometimes doesn’t have the financial resources to provide food for all of its members. It’s a more common problem than you think. In 2010, nearly 50 million American households were listed as food insecure. As you can imagine, when you’re worried about having enough money to buy food for your family, whether or not the food you do manage to buy is making you fat is probably not a top concern. Bad food is better than no food.

Let’s look at Mississippi, for example. This infographic compares a state’s poverty rate, obesity rate, food assistance rate, and food insecurity level. The state is the most obese (red dot) and one of the poorest (blue dot). It’s also one of the most food insecure (check the full infographic below to make your own comparisons).

Peruse this graphic (it’s a little obtuse, but put on your thinking cap) and you start to see some patterns. The outer ring of red dots–the most obese states–are often the most poor and the most food insecure. Is correlation causation? No. But it’s a good way of seeing that food access, poverty, and obesity are all linked in a complicated web of problems. Solutions that try to address just one area are going to fail; the whole mess needs to be combated more systemically.

You can see the entire infographic below or view it here.

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly