This weekend the Engineer’s godmother, Song, told me that our tow-un had been mentioned on Radio 4’s Food Programme. But not in a good way. It was in a programme looking at the effects and prevalence of trans-fats – factory produced fats which are used in cheap foods and which are linked to obesity and other health problems. Some national companies like McDonalds and KFC have signed up to a pledge to remove all trans-fats from their food by the end of this year. But small independent companies, like most of the ones in our high street, have generally not signed up.
The Food Programme’s presenter, Sheila Dillon, visited our high street (at around 15 minutes into the programme) with Sandwell’s Director of Public Health, Dr John Middleton. Dr Middleton says that Sandwell has been described as ‘fat central’ and that the quality of food that can be bought in the area is a factor in the obesity issues here.
And last week our local paper posted an article about how the high street here is one of the worst in the UK. The rental prices for retail property in the town have plummeted because the profits that can be made are so low that retailers are reluctant to operate here. So nearly all the shops sell cheap or heavily discounted products, which brings us trans-fats in the cut-price food and then the associated health problems.
So here, unlike Bristol, here we’re waiting for Tesco to save and regenerate our high street, as their new superstore is built. Saving and regenerating the town’s people, however, is something only God can do.