Food is big. There is widespread concern about hunger and malnutrition; obesity, in particular among children; access to healthy food; food waste; lack of healthy food options in schools, neighborhoods and restaurants; affordability of fresh produce; overconsumption of sugary drinks. The list could go on and on (as this one did).
These issues don’t effect groups of people equally. Issues of food and nutrition are often seen through the lens of disparities based on race and economic level. In Minnesota, Hispanics experience the highest level of adult obesity, followed by Blacks, with Whites experiencing the lowest of these groups (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)).
Nationally, in recent years the prevalence of obesity was lowest among Asian adults (11.7%), followed White (34.5%), Hispanic (42.5%), and non-Hispanic Black (48.1%) adults, according to the CDC. http://tinyurl.com/q3kr283. For various reasons such as measurement criteria, subgroup differences and immigration patterns, the low obesity rate among Asians may be misleading. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410367/
Foundations and philanthropies have gotten on the bandwagon. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy (February 2016), “a growing number of foundations, donors and nonprofits are keenly interested in improving the way food is raised, encouraging better nutrition, and supporting fairer systems of food production and distribution.” For example, a year ago the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation committed $500 million toward reversing childhood obesity.
The list of possible solutions that could be funded by grantmakers and the government is also long. It includes school and community gardens, education about healthy eating on a budget, better food labeling, changing school meal standards, partnerships between schools and chefs, financing for developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, and farmers markets selling healthy food in underserved areas, and taxes on sugary drinks. Many of these approaches are part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.
In my next blog, I will explore various approaches being taken by nonprofits in Minnesota. If there are interesting examples you are aware of, please reply or let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.