Why food deserts and corporations are hurting the American people, and why the people need to stand up and demand change during a time of social justice movements.
By: Lenin O’Mahony
Today, we see many social justice movements that are diverse and expansive. Movements such as BLM, #MeToo, and more have begun to change what American culture looks like. These movements contain positives and negatives and discuss numerous issues in our society. However, one major topic is often unaddressed in these discussions of social justice, race, and equality. This topic is an issue relating to food deserts, which are a simple issue with a major impact and are unfortunately often overlooked.
To understand why food deserts are such an issue for modern America, we need to understand what they are. Food deserts are defined as “an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.” This means that locals are unable to access fresh goods, such as vegetables and fruits, and this can be very limiting to their diets. Initially, this doesn’t seem like such a big issue, but the truth is that many low-income families that lack access to reliable transportation can only depend on the food nearby.
For many families in America, this has a major impact on their health and eating habits. They can only access food that is primarily located at corner stores and even gas stations, or local fast-food restaurants. This means that they are used to purchasing and consuming large amounts of carbonated drinks, lots of preservatives, and other unhealthy foods. They fail to obtain healthy amounts of vegetables and natural sugars, which their bodies need. This leads to health complications for many people, as well as a second unforeseen problem.
Children who grow up eating with such bad habits grow up and continue to have the same diet, even when they gain access to supermarkets with healthy alternatives. Young adults struggle to know how to properly cook or provide healthy levels of nutrients for themselves because they never learned how to do so.
Food deserts largely affect two groups of people: those in the inner city where it takes time and energy to travel any amount of distance due to the density and concentration of buildings and people. The other group is people who live in rural areas, many of which are located in the south. They too live in food deserts, which are considered to be deserts when it is more than a mile to the nearest grocery. Areas where it is more than a mile to the nearest grocery store, especially where families do not own or have access to a car, are often areas that also struggle with obesity and diabetes.
This is a major health issue in America that is often accepted as normal, and people think it’s just how certain families live. I believe that it is the responsibility of the US government to encourage and subsidize the construction and supply of grocery stores into many of these areas in order to increase the quality of life for Americans. The United States has a stereotype of being overrun by obesity and diabetes, and Americans are seen as fat, lazy, and stupid. The popularity of this stereotype is not just because Americans love McDonalds. It is because many individuals in the United States are suffering from a lack of access to healthy food options, and have no choice but to turn to affordable and unhealthy diets in order to feed their families.
The heart of this issue lies in why we have not seen change regarding the existence of food deserts. I firmly believe that major corporations within the fast food industry, among others, use expensive lobbyists to influence state and federal governments to help maintain these food deserts. Without removing the influence of these corporations from the function of the government, the American people will continue to be tricked into spending their money and energy supporting such corporations.
These food deserts, and the continued health issues of Americans, are directly feeding into these corporations that steal jobs from the average American, pushing them into poverty, while at the same time poisoning their families. We need to push the government to reject the lobbyists and their lies and support our impoverished by giving them opportunities to better themselves and their lives.
Melanie Moyer '22,