We turn to the issue of food deserts, food insecurity, and food apartheid in Module 4. One of the objectives in this section is for you to explore larger structural issues that impact food deserts — and how these issues relate to each other. Pay close attention to the two following quotes; they frame our discussion here.
[Food insecurity] does not exist in isolation, as low-income families are affected by multiple, overlapping issues like affordable housing, social isolation, health problems, medical costs, and low wages. Many do not have what they need to meet basic needs and these challenges increase a family’s risk of food insecurity. Effective responses to food insecurity will need to address these overlapping challenges.
-Hunger and Health: Feeding America
The story itself cannot be told isolation: the issue of food segregation – the gaping divide between food haves and have-nots – is inseparable from systemic issues relating to the broader food economy, the workings of the supermarket industry, and larger issues of economic and social disparity. Sensitive cultural issues relating to diet and food choices also come into play – issues of who gets to decide what kind of food a community gets to eat.
We begin by exploring how researchers/analysts define this issue.
The USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] defines a “food desert” as an area lacking access to fresh produce and other healthful whole foods due to a lack of access to supermarkets or large grocery stores, and the emphasis here is important. For an urban area to qualify as a “low-access community,” there must be a poverty rate of 20% or more with at least 500 residents in the area, and 33% of the census tract’s population must live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.
Not surprisingly, the term has proven to be controversial. An excellent analysis published in 2015 [provided, not assigned] by Dorceta E. Taylor, Professor of Environmental Sociology at the University of Michigan, and Kerry J. Ard, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Natural Resource Sociology at the Ohio State University, pointed out that, “Studies that identify only supermarkets and large grocery stores miss a variety of small food outlets that carry healthful food that urban consumers desire, including independent grocers and small ethnic grocery stores.” -Nicole Rupersburg in Source (provided, not assigned)
Who is affected by food deserts? How big is the issues?
* approximately 23.5 million people live in food deserts, nearly half of this number are low-income
* people living in the poorest SES (social-economic status) areas have 2.5 times the exposure to fast-food restaurants as those living in the wealthiest areas
* low-income zip codes have 30% more convenience stores (which tend to lack healthy items) than middle-income zip codes
* 8% of Black residents live in a census tract with a supermarket, compared to 31% of White residents
* for every additional supermarket in a census tract, produce consumption increases 32% for Black residents and 11% for White residents (Source and Source-provided, not assigned)
*To learn more about food deserts, review the material below, beginning with a spoken word piece.
Food Deserts (ERT-9:00)
New York is mentioned in this article, so pay attention to that component. The value of this article is that it outlines both the problem of food deserts but also some city-specific solutions.
The Grocery Gap (ERT-16:00)
Read the Findings Section (p 13-20). Detroit and New York are mentioned in this article. It takes the Food Deserts article you read above and extends the analysis in important ways. I appreciate how this article analyzes initiatives to address food deserts as well as contextualizes the issue in a broader social landscape of economic development.
Stats about Food Deserts (ERT-7:00)
This is largely a review and extension of the above, in easy to digest infographic form.
Part 2. What is Food Insecurity?
Closely connected to food deserts is the concept — and the reality — of food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources. According to the USDA, there are two levels of food insecurity:
* Low food security: “Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.”
* Very low food security: “Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”
Food deserts are a component of food insecurity. While food insecurity doesn’t always lead to hunger, it can. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.
To learn more about food insecurity, go to Disrupting Food Insecurity
Check out the county you live in. Read the data for your county. Then, check out data for counties in our three cities of focus. The names of the counties are provided below. Select New Orleans, Detroit, and two counties in New York City. The list is below. You will be compiling this information as a part of Journal 2 (assignment posted under Module 5). It may be helpful to review that part of the assignment prior to completing this task.
1. Orleans Parish LA (New Orleans) 2. Wayne County MI (Detroit) 3. Bronx County NY (The Bronx) 4. Kings County NY (Brooklyn) 5. Queens County NY (Queens) 6. Richmond County NY (Staten Island)
Part 3. What is Food Apartheid?
Not everyone uses the term food desert — some folks advocate for the term food apartheid. What is food apartheid?
Food apartheid looks at the whole food system and takes into account income, race, and geography. It encompasses the social and racial inequalities that are at play in our food system. It recognizes that the systems in place are what make it difficult for people living in low-income areas to access fresh, healthy food…Finally, food apartheid is a better alternative to “food desert”. Food desert leaves out the important social inequalities that exist in food access. Source
Learn more about this term and the rationale for it (hint: structural issues!) in the article and video:
It’s Not a Food Desert, It’s Food Apartheid (ERT 20:00)
As you read this article, pay careful attention to why Karen Washington advocates for the term food apartheid vs. food injustice.
I wake up dreaming that my neighborhood has been given capital, has been given opportunity, has been given finance, that we can own our stores and businesses. Why is it that outsiders always have to come into our neighborhood to open a business? Why don’t people with capital come into my neighborhood and think about investing in the people who already live here? Give them the capital, give them the means of financial literacy, teach them how to invest, teach them how to own homes, teach them how to own businesses. Give them that chance, instead of coming in and changing the dynamics and the complexion of our neighborhood.
– Karen Washington
Part 4. Food Desert Research
In the final section, conduct research on food deserts on social media. Research hashtags related to this topic. Please note that you do no need a Twitter account to search for hashtags on that platform. You do need an Instagram account to search for hashtags on that platform. Hashtags to get you started include:
See what other hashtags show up in conjunction with these. Consider doing a search by city to determine if anything is being said about these issue specific to New York (you may need to search by borough: Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Harlem-in Manhattan), New Orleans, or Detroit.
Congrats! You have finished reviewing the Module 4 content.
To complete your learning for Module 4, create a blog post that addresses the following:
1. We discussed three terms in this module: food deserts, food insecurity, and food apartheid. Which one do you think it the most relevant (or analytically useful) and why? Be sure to define the term in your own words as a part of your post.
2. Post a picture of one of the hashtags that you found in your food desert research. Discuss why you selected this image and what it addresses about food deserts.Conclude with 3 numbered facts about food deserts from Module 4.
Blogs earning a 3/3 will be approximately 400-500 words. This can also be measured as 2/3-3/4 of a Word document page.
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