Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, Mexico’s obesity rate has risen to become the second highest in the world after the U.S. Malnutrition is also on the rise, with 400,000 children affected. An overweight or clinically obese person can suffer from malnutrition due to a high-calorie diet devoid of nutrients. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
Children receive a gold star on the forehead following a dental check as part of a free community outreach project to combat obesity. They attend an elementary school in the city of Oaxaca, in one of seven Mexican states where child malnutrition exceeds 36%, according to World Vision Mexico. The children’s parents are tested for diabetes and body mass as part of the programme. The rate of diabetes in Mexico shot up after the NAFTA agreement was signed. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
With imported soft drinks costing the same or less than bottled water, in a country where tap water is not safe to drink, the poorest people are most likely to develop diabetes. Mexico’s health ministry said in 2016 that 72% of adults were overweight or obese. But the same people are prone to malnutrition thanks to a diet high in sugar and saturated fats and low in fibre. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
A street vendor and her daughter in Oaxaca city sell American sweets and cigarettes. More than a third of the state’s population is made up of 16 different indigenous groups. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
More than 32% of adults in Mexico are obese, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. A tax on junk food introduced in 2014 has reduced sugar consumption, but the nutritional challenge facing the country remains formidable. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
A family from the Zapotec indigenous group collects a meagre harvest from desiccated frijoles (beans), as the dry season quickly advances in the foothills of the Sierra Norte mountains in Oaxaca. The number of Mexicans living in food poverty – the inability to purchase basic items of food – rose from 18 million in 2008 to 20 million by late 2010. The incidence of malnutrition is higher in indigenous communities. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
In the Zapotec village of Villa Díaz Ordaz, just under 40km from Oaxaca, the average income is just one third that of the average city resident. Malnutrition is highest among the country’s farm families, who used to produce enough food to feed the nation. After NAFTA, these farms were unable to compete with the U.S. corporate agriculture giants entering the country’s market. This resulted in the collapse of its small farm economy. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
Brightly coloured bags of crisps are displayed next to toys marketed for children in a U.S. store in Oaxaca. Mexico’s retail market was altered forever after NAFTA opened the door U.S. retailers. Small Mexican shops were unable to compete with the low prices. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
Dr. Teresita Flores Dominguez administers blood sugar tests to parents of elementary students at a school in Oaxaca, while nurse Oziel Sevilla Nicolás measures body mass and height as a part of community outreach to promote a healthy lifestyle. Farmers have found themselves in more sedentary urban jobs following the collapse of the local farming economy. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
Antonieta Battista Cruz (facing the camera) leads a yoga class as part of a free community programme to combat obesity in Oaxaca. Exercise plans come with advice on healthy diets. Several participants revealed they had been diagnosed with high blood sugar or diabetes and were determined to improve their health for the sake of their families. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
Victoria Santiago Lopez, 35, from San Miguel del Valle in Oaxaca, prepares lunch. She squeezes a lemon from her garden into boiled green beans, and mixes tomatillo (Mexican husk tomato) and other ingredients into fresh tomatillo salsa, a traditional Zapotec recipe. All the ingredients are locally grown. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
Lopez has collected a haul of chapulines (grasshoppers). The insects are high in protein, which is important to families in Oaxaca, who cannot afford to eat fish or meat regularly. The grasshoppers can only be found from May to November. They are cleaned and then toasted with garlic, lime juice and salt. Image by James Whitlow Delano. Mexico, 2017.
James Whitlow Delano reports on a rise in Mexican obesity and malnutrition, a long-term health impact of the 1994 free trade agreement signed by Mexico with the U.S. and Canada.