Food insecurity and Food deserts are terms that seemed so foreign to many of us years ago while we were still living in a well-developed society. Now living in a pandemic-ridden nation, these two terms have been unveiled as true stressors on communities of color. Inflation issues and looming recession indicators have caused many to cut back on expenses and quality of life items.
Unfortunately, one of those areas has been without food. Daily essentials have been increasingly harder for many people in society to budget, whether trying to tend to the needs of large families or a senior on a fixed income. Food insecurity comes from not being able to purchase items needed to secure healthy outcomes. Food deserts can be a result of larger stores and chains closing doors due to economic conditions or unsafe neighborhoods.
Food insecurity is the measure of the availability of food and an individual’s ability to access it. This can be influenced by other factors including race, ethnicity, neighborhood, and economic levels. Food insecurity can have long standing detriments to overall health and can assist in the development or worsening of chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. According to the CDC, Social Determinants of health are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life-risks and outcomes.
There are many causes behind food insecurity that do not all stem from poverty. It can include increased prices, high demand, lack of natural resources like water, and land or availability to grow your own produce. The prevalence of fast food chains which are offering deals to lure people into buying their product can have a negative impact on diseases that run rampant in communities of color. Diseases such as diabetes, heart health, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure can all be impacted by the quality of food we eat.
As website editor Tori M. stated, “Proper dieting is the key to maintaining adequate physical and mental health, however, our eating habits can take a disastrous turn when the communities we inhabit do not have our best interest in mind. Fast food chain restaurants are more likely to appear in Black neighborhoods than market destinations carrying organic and healthier options, arguably due to affordability depending on the demographics they serve.”
There are many threats to our ability to have food security. One can argue that a lack of healthy food options is at the top of that list as highlighted by Tori. It is difficult for some to have security when the price of basic consumer staples have risen dramatically higher and faster than wage income levels. A dozen eggs can cost as much as $7.00 while a meal at a fast food chain will offer deals that are much cheaper.
Other threats to our food security besides inflation include population growth which causes increased demands and decrease in water resources which impacts crops and farm lands. Additionally, not having sufficient places to shop for affordable food options such as supermarkets or farmers markets can produce food deserts. The lack of places to buy quality food often exists in communities of color and marginalized communities.
Our website editor, Tori, goes on to add that “The overarching issue here is that more nutritious food options should not be more expensive than quick and easy meals that are temporarily enjoyable while carrying long-term health concerns if indulged in too often. This ongoing practice fulfills the surface-level demands of keeping a community well-fed and content yet it lazily fails to consider the correlations between that sustenance and the growing rates of health concerns such as diabetes diagnoses that it invokes.”
There is no easy answer to solving this issue, however, we can take charge by searching for and choosing healthier cheaper options. Farmers' markets are popping up across the country more and more. In the east coast, community gardens are popular allowing residents to grow and maintain fresh produce. Stores such as Target and Walmart are increasing their footprints in urban areas.
If you happen to live in a neighborhood where gaining access to healthy produce or other food options is limited due to transportation issues, then there are often local groups, centers, and even schools that may be able to assist you in finding sources for healthy and affordable food. As members of society, we need to prepare and advocate now for ourselves and our fellow neighbors before the crisis worsens. As the recent baby formula shortage showed us, a food shortage crisis can come at any point and hit almost every person no matter their economic status. The question is, how will you prepare?