Keto as a Social Justice Issue

(Stephanie Sablich) #1

I’m a student in an MSW program in Michigan. In one of my classes, we spent some time discussing food justice and injustice, food deserts, etc. Most people are aware that there are extreme health disparities in low-income and systemically oppressed racial and ethnic minority communities. Higher obesity rates, higher rates of diabetes, worse health outcomes across the board, lower life expectancy, etc.

We’re all here because we want to change our reality, right? We believe in this way of eating; we believe it is best for our health, our lifestyle, our functionality. How can we bring this way of eating to marginalized communities, or areas with high levels of food insecurity?

Forgive my finals-season ramblings. Just something on my mind, something I’d enjoy discussing with other ketoers.

(Old Baconian) #2

It’s been known for over a century that poor communities can experience obesity and metabolic disease from poor diet. Sugar and white flour are very cheap, compared to other foods, so it’s easy to fall into the obesogenic trap if you don’t have a large food budget. Dr. Noakes started a foundation to do exactly what you propose in marginalized communities in South Africa, and he has found that once you help people figure out how to get started on eating LCHF, it practically pays for itself, because they are no longer having to take time off work traveling to distant clinics to get their meds, and because they save money on the meds they no longer need!

(Dawn) #3

I can make the argument that eating Keto is just as affordable as junk food for lower income communities. Especially when you add in a successful fasting regiment. I cannot tell you how significantly my grocery bill has decreased since I stopped eating like a carb addicted pig. I am ashamed to say that I was the one who ate most of the food in the house and created the large grocery bill.

I have a definite plan to bring this to lower income communities. I have already started researching and creating a game plan that will allow me to do this as possibly a second career. My primary target is going to be low income African Americans and Hispanics to start since they are the population that suffers most significantly and in such disparity. I also would like to research the American Indian reservation diet as well to see if there is opportunity to help there as well. But ultimately, I just want to go where I am needed most…regarless of age, color, creed, etc. I just chose those places to start because that is where i am closest. BUT first, I have to be successful. Right now I am still obese. But I have no doubt in my mind that I will get this done and be able to teach others. One individual has the power to make change.

(Olivia) #4

Keto is too big a step and our earth’s resources could hardly sustain such an increase in meat consumption (speculation, (don’t hate me)). I would say start with real home-cooked food and make it simple. Get rid of the processed junk in peoples pantries and give financial incentives for real food. The only way I can see this working is to reduce VAT on unprocessed fruit and vegetables, whilst at the same time giving agricultural subsidies to small (organic) farmers.

(Keto Travels) #5

I have found the whole tread about keto on a budget very inspiring not just when it comes to my own wallet but also when it comes to the question of affordability for those on lower incomes, and especially this posting:

Macadamia nuts and ribeye steaks are no doubt helpful, but not mandatory. Now food deserts … that is another matter! I do love all the sorts of grassroots gardening attempts that I have come across when researching permaculture … that could seriously help with the vegetable/leafy greens side of things as well as eggs and meat if chickens backyard chickens are an option …

(jilliangordona) #6

there are a few things to consider here, in my eyes:

  1. Even if you incorporate fasting, keto in the beginning is expensive, and many cannot afford the upfront cost.
  2. Cultural food norms play a big part of this as well. Different ethnicities and races eat different (usually carb loaded) foods because it stems from a traditional cuisine (ie rice and tortillas in Latin American cuisine).
  3. Individuals in low socioeconomic brackets often don’t have many cooking skills to make a transition, or the time to actually cook due to work schedules which is why they
  4. Taste preferences are HUGE. I’m a teacher, and a few weeks ago I was at an outreach event trying a coffee drink that was available, and I took a sip and couldn’t handle the sweetness. Meanwhile, one of my students tried it and said “does this even have sugar in it?” I tell my students I don’t eat sugar and they are so so confused and appalled that I would do that to myself. A slow transition needs to happen to be effective.
    5 Also, we need to be cautious of programs that tout MyPlate and other food guidelines that push 10+ servings of carbs a day and low fat. People will lose their MINDS (especially non profit and government folks) to know we are telling people “yes, eat bacon! Not quinoa!”

This whole issue is near and dear to my heart as a majority of the students I teach come into school eat day with dollar store snacks that are wreaking havoc on their bodies. I would love to be part of a solution.

I teach agricultural science, and we are building a garden and submitting a grant for chickens. My hope is those chickens will produce eggs and given to the school food pantry along with our veggies to be taken home by students.

(Marie Dantoni) #7

Cost can certainly be an issue, but I think it is more a matter of learning. When we are socialized to eat carbage it gets ingrained (pun?). That problem crosses over into all economic classes. Of course we can thank food company propaganda for a lot of our health problems, but at some point it is a matter of taking the control back. Reading labels, and calculating cost per lb can be a real eye opener. Oz for oz, hamburger helper turns out to be pretty hard on your wallet. No body wants to be sick. Its a waiting game I guess, but in the meantime its about choices.

(Jenny) #8

(Marie Dantoni) #9

It’s a complex problem. How can we start to fix it ? On face you could say that economics is at the root, but I think the bigger picture is that people no longer cook and don’t know what good food tastes like. If we could replace the carbage in school cafeterias with wholesome and delicious choices It might help to change things.


No hate :slight_smile: but you might want to look up Allan Savory and others who do work on carbon sequestration. There is a ton of argument about this - debunking, and then de-debunking - but it’s very interesting and has made me question my assumptions about the environmental impact of meat. (It’s also why when I can afford grass-fed, that’s what I buy - not for the health benefits specifically… though I agree with the thread that specifies that it’s not a keto rule!)


@ssablich Thanks for starting this thread, Stephanie! I’ve been thinking about this question a lot recently…


This is an important topic. I studied in a permaculture design certificate course with Geoff Lawton, and he always said that permaculture is the answer to most of the world’s problems. Here in Wisconsin, Will Allen started Growing Power in Milwaukee to help bring fresh food into an urban food desert. I think we just need a thousandfold increase in growing sustainable food in the city, including small livestock like chickens, ducks, goats etc. Part of making food affordable is producing it close to the consumer.

The two other components that I think would be critical are education and support. I have found these two to be the foundation of my own success thus far, and for me it is almost all online. Not everyone learns that way though. Literacy as well as access to the internet would limit that. If I had a local ketonian community to plug in to, I’m sure that would be a huge help. So I would suggest offering free keto classes and support groups where people can network and help each other connect to sources of good food and share ways to succeed on keto. The community built there could help bring about a movement to build those sustainable urban permaculture food systems too.

(Naomi Brewster) #13

Hi Darcy, I did Geoff’s course about 4 years ago. He’s a good teacher and the way I think about gardening and harvesting resources has changed exponentially since this time. It’s spring here (Melbourne Australia) and my garden is in full flow. I planted it out with seeds that I collected from last years crops. I manured the garden with compost that I created using resources available. Apart from a few new seed packets and a couple of plants that I bought I haven’t spent more than $100 on the garden this year. My household are now eating all our green leafy veggies from the garden, herbs and even fruits (mulberries are in season). We don’t buy many veggies from the supermarket any more. AND it is labor saving - a couple of blissful hours a week which is more for pure pleasure than necessity (though it does take a bit of work to set it up). Permaculture has the potential to change people’s lives and is available to everyone. How to get the message out there.

(Naomi Brewster) #14

Yes it was expensive to start a ketogenic diet because I was buying all sorts of things and trying them out but actually my actual weekly bill has dropped considerably. My food in the fridge and cupboards is tiny compared to my father’s non-keto foods. The information load initially is also overwhelming - there’s so much to learn and digest but it does get easier. The biggest challenge I’ve seen in my family and friends who have tried to make the switch is the social element - they want to eat with everyone and hate to be seen to be different or make a fuss. The beauty of it is that so many people are making this information available on line for free and providing community support. Now to get the message out to disadvantaged communities and help them make the changes to improve their lives and health and cut through that initial period of overwhelm and confusion

(Marie Dantoni) #15

Thanksgiving excess aside, we are living in a world where (for some of us) overconsumption of all commodities…cheap clothing, cheap highly processed food, addictions to images, celebrities bigger homes, better cars. It just goes on…
Grass fed is viable and sustainable. Food can be grown organically. It doesn’t have to be a privilege to eat healthy. We just need to manage our resources better and maybe do with a little less of it. Fasting comes to mind.


That is perfect! I have been slow to get anything growing in my own garden, though I think wistfully about it so often. We have a very short growing season here, but good gardeners are able to produce a nice seasonal harvest, and some creative people have managed to extend the growing season and plant cold weather crops. I managed it last fall into winter for a bit and enjoyed the greens. This spring I was up against rabbits that moved into my hoop houses (they were so darn cute) and life… but it was interesting to see all the greens grow up tall anyway and go to seed. I did not collect the seeds but I want to learn that as well. I want to be like you! :slight_smile:

One nice development in the small city where I live is a cooperative effort among organic farmers who deliver food boxes by subscription, and an old floral greenhouse the group purchased and and are using as an indoor winter farmers’ market and education center. There is also a renewable energy fair held yearly in the area where solar panels, mass heaters etc . are displayed, and there is usually a permaculture presentation too. It’s always been known as kind of a “hippy” event but more and more this is getting interest in the mainstream.

(Naomi Brewster) #17

I know right - re: rabbits - they are gorgeous and everyone has to live somehow. What I love about eating from the garden is that we are much more in tune with the seasons - mulberries came in and we feasted - but they’re finished now. The rocket and pak choy were a great early crop but they’ve gone to seed. We eat what is available and plan for the next crop. That has been my biggest challenge - keeping the crops going and knowing what to plant when. Love the cooperative effort - it means you have other minds to pick and a community of like-minded people. But mostly with the garden I love that it wants to grow and is very forgiving to the novice. Remember there is always next season and every failure is a learning opportunity.

(Richard Hanson) #18

Food Desert or Demand Desert?

Our good friends at the USDA define a food desert as:

Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

I don’t think the problem is a lack of supply, but rather a lack of demand. If a grocer can not sell fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, if such items rot in the bins, then it will not be long before the stock of such goods is not replenished. In many of these same neighborhoods are ethnic stores that import specialty items from all over the world because there is a local demand for just such foods even if they are quite expensive.

I have shopped at a wide range of ethnic stores, Asian, Hispanic, Italian, and such, and I have always found such merchants, not in the most affluent areas of town, but rather the least.

I think it rather paternalistic to think we can somehow impose our “healthy” eating choices on other people, not at all dissimilar to those believing that we should eat a low fat heart healthy diet who then imposed their vision on America through official government nutrition guidelines and food labeling laws. I must ask have we learned nothing from the harm engendered by such arrogance?

This is not a field of dreams where “If you build it they will come”, it is much more “If they will eat it we will sell it”.

I would observe that some of the most impoverished people in the world, native population living a subsistence lifestyle without any grocers at all, have had the healthiest diets with population devoid of all the diseases of civilization.

I do think there are some positive changes that can take place. The government can stop recommending a diet and the government can stop distorting the market for food by ending all subsidies for agriculture, most especially those for the production of sugar.

Keto for Life!


I see the solution as coming not from the top down, but more grass roots, at the community level. But someone has to get the word out, get things moving, plant a seed.

(Bunny) #20

My idea of this would be incorporating from a grass roots perpective and expanding out then uniting this through a national centralized institute or foundation specifically to address the scientific, political and research angles then creating and offering educational literature, educational forums, lectures and courses etc. to foster an understanding on nutrition, disease and the epidemiological impact on public health.

This would create a window into the marginalized communities also!