By Alma Hill
I remember the day I realized the grocery stores in communities of color sold a completely different kind of food than the grocery stores in “better” neighborhoods.
I used to live in a small suburb of Orlando called Winter Park. The population was pretty diverse, both in skin color, and income levels, mostly because of a few schools in the area. Winter Park as a whole however is known as one of the wealthier suburbs. Our local grocery store had a produce section took up half the store.
My fiance worked at a mall across town in a lower-income neighborhood predominately Black and Latino. One day he had a short shift so I decided to stay in the area and do my grocery shopping instead of making the 45 minute commute each way.
“It’s the same grocery store.” I thought to myself. “Can’t be THAT different.”
It was what I found inside the grocery store that made me question my surroundings.
In this neighborhood, I walked in and was greeted by a literal wall of Cheese Puffs. While searching for the produce section, I found an entire portion of the store dedicated to junk food. It was in its own corner, and had three aisles plus a wrap around wall filled to the brim with chips, candy, popcorn, cookies, soda. It took me a full ten minutes to find the produce section. It was tucked away in the back corner of the store, and had one wall of green veggies, and two fruit stands. Those were the only vegetables.
I wish I was exaggerating just a little bit, but the sad fact is, I’m not. There is a genuine disparity between the quality of food in Black and Low Income neighborhoods and wealthier, predominantly White neighborhoods. I won’t speculate on the reasons WHY this is, but the fact is, this is the reality. This lack of access to healthy food actually directly affects the health of Black Americans.
According to a study published by FoodTrust.org, “Since 1990, numerous studies have proven that low income communities and communities of color have less access to healthy food than higher-income and less diverse communities.”
The same study also found that living closer to healthy food retail is associated with decreased risk for obesity and diet related diseases. These SAME diseases are the ones that run rampant in Black communities. Diabetes, Hypertension, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol. All of these diseases are related to poor eating habits.
It’s fair to say that the evidence suggests that available markets have no vested interest in the general health of Black Communities. It’s come to a point where we have to realize that it’s time for Black communities to take control of our health and end the inequality of food. Time for us to grow and buy from our own locally sourced communities.
Now many reading this may be thinking “It sounds easier than it is.” which is true, but it’s also true that there are Black Americans who who are proving everyday that it can be done, cheaply and efficiently.
Take the Libertad Urban farm community located in New York City. The South Bronx is the last place you’d expect to see a black owned farm, but the Libertad Urban Farm is here to challenge your expectations. Tanya Fields, the founder of the the small farm, worked for six years to get the rights and the land to grow her own food for her community.
“This is about human rights.” Fields said to The Root, in a video interview. “We should all have the right to eat food that does not slowly kill us.”
Fields was inspired to grow her own food because she realized there was a lack of healthy food options in her community. According to National Geographic, the Bronx has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with 37% of it’s residents not having access to adequate nutrition.
Figures like this can be found all over the country, but they mostly appear in low-income communities and communities of color. Fields, and others like her, are looking to end these kinds of statistics at the source, and have become the face of the Black Food Revolution.
Fields embodies the mission, and the mission of all those who want to take control of their health with one simple phrase.
“The ability to say, I grew some of my food, and I had some control over what went into my body, and I made the decision as to what that was going to be. That is radical. That is revolutionary.”