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Friday, December 14, 2007

The lies about country living

Fannie Charles, 46, lives six miles from the nearest grocery store in rural Orangeburg County, S.C. She doesn't own a car, so she pushes a cart along the side of the highway. (There are no sidewalks.) It's difficult, since she weighs 240 pounds and suffers from asthma and type 2 diabetes. That's why she usually goes only once a month. About once a week she supplements her grocery-store purchases with pricier, less healthy food from the convenience store, just a mile and a half away. At both places she forgoes fruits and leafy greens. "They're too expensive," she says. Skim milk is often unavailable. "I get the whole milk, or I'll get a little can of Carnation evaporated," she says. Though she often worries about go­ing hungry, she is obese. "I'm stressed. That's why I'm eating a lot," she says. "And I've got to eat what I have."

This is the real world of eating and nutrition in the rural United States. Forget plucking an apple from a tree, or an egg from under a chicken. "The stereotype is everyone in rural America lives on a farm, which is far from the truth," says Jim Weill, president of the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). New research from the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health shows just how unhealthy the country life can be.

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