Unlike people, all food access was not created equal.
In 2018, 1 in 7 people went hungry while 1 in 8 were obese ). So how is it that both extremes exist, when logically speaking, shouldn’t we be able to shift extra food from those who have more than enough to those who need it?
Getting equal access to healthy food
Similar to the poverty-education cycle, food divergences are also linked to systemic inequalities, societal values of food, and system inefficiencies.
For all the innovations we have today, food access is still grossly unequal across the globe. Food disparity is caused by a number of factors such as accessibility, expense, ability, and socioeconomic differences.
The challenges of food inequality for class
- Some communities have no grocery stores, or an abundance of Golden Arches. These areas are food deserts: communities where one in three people must travel more than a mile to reach a grocery store, or it’s sinfully yummy evil twin food swamps – communities with extremely high concentrations of fast food restaurants in one location.
- Healthy foods can often be out of price range for families. Compare beef to salad; the first tends to be cheaper than the second. This often results in healthier foods off the table for families. Our government and subsidized beef production play a huge role in this.
- It takes approximately 4x longer to prepare a home cooked meal than it does to eat fast food. For those tight on time or short on energy, preparing healthy meals often doesn’t fit into the calendar.
- Socioeconomic differences
- Food has a different cultural meaning based on socioeconomic status.
- Lower-income families often use food as a means to stave off deprivation, while wealthier families use food to fulfill classed values around health and parenting.
- Lower-income parents sometimes want to be able to say yes, or indulge their children. Often, the only treat or luxury they can afford is fast food.
Driving the situation for unequal food
Our government sunk 1.7 Jeff Bezos’ ($253.7B is 1.7 Jeff Bezos’ in case you’re wondering) into subsidized commodity crops like grain, corn, and soybeans since the 1940s (I guess even Alexa can’t order all the corn in the US for Jeff).
This leads to lower cost meat, making it more feasible and preferable for consumers. “Specialty crops” like fruits, nuts and vegetables fend for themselves.
Why it matters
Food barriers connect to race, inequality, and systemic biases embedded in our society. African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be food insecure than the national average.
It is important to create equal opportunity to get access to healthy food, as much as any other social cause. Overcoming system inefficiencies like excessive subsidies for meat production helps to lower barriers to healthier foods.
With that said, it will take a national and global effort to completely eradicate long held systemic inequalities.