According to Feeding America African American households are more than twice as likely to be food insecure as white, non-Hispanic households. More than one in three African American children (36%) live in food-insecure households as compared to one in seven (15%) Caucasian children. Currently, Latino communities are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, poverty and unemployment. They are also less likely to receive support through federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and are at greater risk of developing diet-related illnesses.
Another community affected by hunger is quite sadly the elderly. More than 4 million senior citizens face hunger. For many of them it’s a choice between paying for groceries and buying medicine.1
With fixed incomes and unemployment as the major contributing factor to hunger, it’s important to have inexpensive food options. More often than not, especially for the urban poor, this means grabbing fast food. Of course cheap, unhealthy food options contribute to the cycle of death and disease. In reality what is needed are more inexpensive, healthy food options. Easier said than done.
Any trip to the grocery store and it’s obvious it’s significantly cheaper to shop the center aisles than the produce section or even the fresh meat / deli section. So for many who struggle with food insecurity they often find themselves throwing canned vegetables and meat chocked full of preservatives, salts and sugars into the cart. Many of the people forced to shop this way understand there is a better way of eating, but are forced to make these choices.
Fortunately, there are people in this country who are putting their hearts and minds into solving hunger in America while bearing in mind the need for healthy, inexpensive options.
Thanks to a three-year $750,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture, there is a two-acre farm in the South Side of Chicago near the old Robert Taylor Homes. This multi-purpose program not only brings fresh, food options into a community dealing with food insecurity, but it also trains ex-offenders in agricultural skills as a path toward employment.3
Angela Mason the director of Botanic’s Windy City Harvest says the program also has a learning component.
“There’s so much more you need to do than put fresh produce in a grocery store. To get people interested in even buying the produce, you need to get people excited about it and learning how to prepare food with it. There are a lot of people who’ve never seen kale grow or seen Swiss chard grow and don’t know what to do with it.”
In upstate NY the Soul Fire Farm, which states its commitment to “dismantling of oppressive structures that misguide our food system”, has a Black and Latino Farmer’s Immersion program. In addition to free youth education programs the farm also prides itself on being able to give over 3000 lbs of fresh food each year to those struggling with food insecurity.
It’s not just local communities and people getting involved. Corporations like Wal-Mart also recognize the need for less expensive, fresher options. These are the stores people shop more often, so having these options is critical. Last month at its Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting Wal-Mart announced its commitment to create a more sustainable food system. Part of their four-pillar approach includes increasing access to food and making healthier eating easier.
Last year Wal-Mart was applauded by the First Lady and her “Let’s Move” Campaign for the work they are doing with their “great for you” product seal. As part of the plan to address the problem of food insecurity and healthier eating the chain is reducing salt and sugars in its private label and national food brands as well as opening 86 stores serving neighborhoods without access to fresh, affordable groceries.