There is a national disparity in access to healthy food. Many of us living in higher-income areas aren't aware of this food injustice, because we don't experience it. In an effort to bring more attention to food injustice and environmental racism, the Food Empowerment Group conducted a survey to obtain data about food access in their own area of Santa Clara County, California. Questions they wanted answers to included:
- Does access to fruits and vegetables differ for those in higher-income areas versus those in lower-income areas in Santa Clara County? If so, how significantly?
- What are the differences in types of grocery stores (e.g., supermarkets versus liquor stores) available to those living in higher-income and lower-income areas within Santa Clara County?
- How does access to healthy food products (e.g., fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy alternatives) differ for those living in higher-income and lower-income areas?
- How do other factors, including quality of produce, cleanliness of stores, promotion of alcohol and tobacco products, etc., differ between higher-income and lower-income areas?
Their report, "Shining a Light on the Valley of Heart's Delight: Taking a Look at Access to Healthy Foods in Santa Clara County's Communities of Color and Low-Income Communities" (pdf), reveals several important facts about food disparities in Santa Clara County. Their findings include:
- There are twice as many large supermarkets in higher-income areas than in lower-income communities.
- In the lower-income areas, there are nearly twice as many liquor stores and 50% more meat markets than were found in the higher-income communities surveyed.
- On average, higher-income areas have twice as many locations with fresh fruits and vegetables available compared to lower-income areas.
- Alternatives to 'meat' and dairy were only available in 2% of the locations in lower-income communities.
- Organic produce was virtually non-existent in the lower-income communities.
- Finding land to convert to urban gardens.
- Requiring that prices for food items be easily visible to the consumer.
- Clarifying the definition of "supermarket" and other grocery stores.
Read the full report (pdf).
What about in your own community? What neighborhoods lack equitable access to healthy foods? How can you make a positive difference? Start by reading FEP's report. Then check out the USDA's Your Food Environment Atlas, which offers an overview of a community's ability to access health food. Then find out who is already working on food justice issues in your community and learn more about how you can help!
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