Food matters for personal, public, and planetary well-being
"Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient travelling distance. For instance, according to a (2009) report prepared for Congress by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, about 2.3 million people (or 2.2 percent of all US households) live more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car...Studies have found that wealthy districts have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do, [and] that white neighborhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black ones do..."
~ Loren Ornelas, Founder, Food Empowerment Project.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 49.1 million Americans lived in households considered to be food-insecure, that is, living with serious hunger or fear of starvation. Of these people, 16.7 million were children. This is up 11.1% from the year before and is the highest recorded rate of food insecurity in this country since the survey was first conducted.
Black and Hispanic households experienced food-insecurity at far higher rates than the national average: 27.5% and 26.9%, respectively. The problem persists on many Indian reservations as well.
In addition to not having enough food, often the food available is of sub-standard nutritional quality. This is particularly true in urban areas often termed “food deserts” in response to the lack of fresh food markets. In most of America’s cities there are neighborhoods defined by the lack of grocery￼ stores but lined with fast food, quick marts, and liquor stores making processed food the only option for many families.
As a result, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise and today’s children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Experts estimate one-third of American children are currently overweight, and these rates have tripled among children ages 12 to 19 since 1980. Nearly 10% of medical spending in 2009 was on obesity related treatment totaling about $150 billion.
31 million American children eat lunch in school each day. Of them, 18 million are federally subsidized, but the food our nation provides is highly processed largely due to lack of funds. There is a total of $1 allocated per child per meal each day, leading to high fat, high sodium, and low nutrition meals.
Questions for Individual/Group Reflection
Why Hunger: Food Security Learning Center A network of activists working toward a just food system and world in the process of developing shared language and facilitating a common understanding of historical roots of racism in the United States in order to effectively implement strategies for change. This is a critical path toward transforming organizational structures that can end hunger and poverty through the development of sustainable and just food systems in our communities.
Roberts, Paul. The End of Food. Mariner Books. 2009.In this carefully researched account, Roberts indentifies the forces that are undermining our capacity to produce food that is safe, nourishing, or adequate to meet the appetites of a rapidly growing population. In The End of Food, readers will see not only how our food systems are breaking down, but how they can be put back on a sustainable course.
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