Food Disparities between Wealthy and Disenfranchised Neighborhoods
This research paper involves discovering food disparities between wealthy neighborhoods and disenfranchised neighborhoods. The goal is to compare and contrast the two kinds of neighborhood when it comes to food availability and nutrition. Also, this paper aims to determine the factors that affect such disparities and find out the reasons for limited access to healthy foods for those living in disenfranchised areas or neighborhoods. This will allow for more profound discussion about nutrition and may direct future research on the food disparities between wealthy and disenfranchised neighborhoods.
Ample consumption of healthy and nutritious foods everyday is vital to every person’s health and well being. However, not all people have the means to buy and put enough food on their table, especially healthy and nutritious ones. This sad fact apparently has caused food disparities between wealthy neighborhoods and disenfranchised neighborhoods. Luckily, those people in wealthy neighborhoods are able to have enough and consistent supply of healthy and nutritious foods. On the other hand, people who live in disenfranchised neighborhoods unfortunately do not have enough means to buy themselves healthy foods; some hardly even eat properly.
Food security is very important in every neighborhood. But those in the disenfranchised neighborhoods are mostly “food insecure,” thus leading to poor health. Even in New York City, there are a number of nutritionally insecure neighborhoods which are characterized by relative poverty and poor health (Manwelyan, 2011). The issue of healthy food access and consumption
Food Disparities between Wealthy and Disenfranchised Neighborhoods 3
in disenfranchised neighborhoods is complicated. Nonetheless, this paper will seek and discover the factors that affect and contribute to the residents’ insufficient consumption of healthy foods as well as their unhealthy eating habits.
Understanding ‘Food Deserts’
Basically, food deserts pertain to geographic areas where people have limited or little access to affordable nutritious foods. This is because of the absence of grocery stores in certain neighborhoods. The term was first used in Scotland and characterized neighborhoods that can encompass many thousands of people and/or an extensive land area as defined by city blocks or square miles (Mulligan et al, 2015). Food deserts are usually located in rural areas and low-income neighborhoods. Residents in food desert areas have only less access to stores that offer healthy food choices, thus making the residents susceptible to various health diseases like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. This is simply because of insufficient consumption of healthy foods and poor food choices. Because the supply of healthy foods to these areas is very limited, people compromise their health by eating only what is available, which are mostly unhealthy.
Apparently, food deserts are a problem as they have a big impact on people’s health especially to those who live in disenfranchised neighborhoods. The supply of healthy foods in food deserts is really a big problem. However, even if this problem has been addressed, it does not guarantee that people will purchase healthy foods because of its price. Those people in wealthy neighborhoods can surely purchase because they have the means. But unfortunately, there are people who will not be able to buy healthy foods despite the fact that there is enough supply. These people may include those who really do not have enough money or those price-conscious shoppers who want to save. In this note, there is a possibility to solve the problem in food deserts and supply of healthy foods in rural areas. But no one can control the people’s buying decision when it comes to healthy foods. Nonetheless, there are factors that may affect their buying decision and healthy food consumption.
Consumption of Healthy Food in Wealthy Neighborhoods
The main reason why wealthy people are able to eat enough healthy foods is because they have the means to buy them. Also, it is presumed that a healthy and high-quality diet follows a socioeconomic gradient in which people with higher socioeconomic status are more likely to consume healthy foods than ones with limited economic means. People who live in wealthy neighborhoods mostly consume fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats and low-fat dairy products, thus helping them become healthier. Their easy access to healthy foods is known to affect different aspects of energy balance. Such food consumption gives them a better control of their diet which results to healthy and high-quality diet and better health.
According to a study conducted by Darmon & Drewnowski (2010), intakes of some essential vitamins and minerals follow a socioeconomic gradient consistent with certain food consumption patterns. The study summarizes that higher socioeconomic status groups had consistently higher intakes of most vitamins and minerals and fibers than did lower socioeconomic status groups. Also, dietary intakes of folate, iron and vitamin C are sufficient among people with higher socioeconomic status which meets their dietary recommendations.
Ironically, poor neighborhoods have higher rates of obesity than wealthy neighborhoods. This is simply because people in disenfranchised neighborhoods highly consume unhealthy foods because of limited budget. Apparently, junk food is much less expensive than fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, people in wealthy neighborhoods are able to consume healthy foods because they do not need to save just to be healthy. However, sometimes, a healthy diet is not much of a financial issue. Apart from the socioeconomic status of a person, there are other reasons why wealthy people are more likely to consume healthy foods than the poor ones.
For one, if a person is wealthy and live in a stress-free environment, they are more likely to eat well and exercise. On the other hand, if a person is poor and lives in a stressful and unsafe environment, they are likely to eat emotionally, thus leading them to unhealthy eating. In essence, if a person is stressed, they will opt to pleasure their taste buds by eating sweet foods, which are apparently unhealthy and may trigger various diseases especially diabetes. What’s more, most people in poor environment are engrossed with their work because they want to earn enough. Therefore, they tend to disregard healthy eating and regular exercise. When they are busy with work, they are much likely to prefer instant foods rather than home-cooked meals. Unfortunately, while wealthy ones are planning their diet and exercise, poor people are busy making money while discounting their diet and health.
Consumption of Healthy Food in Disenfranchised Neighborhoods
Fruits, vegetable and other healthy foods are really expensive nowadays; one reason why people in disenfranchised neighborhoods hardly afford them. People with less wealth standing are the ones who mostly experience food vulnerabilities. Fresh and high-quality foods are required for any person’s diet. Though fruits and vegetables usually come from rural areas, there are still neighborhoods that become disenfranchised. This is due to lack of retail and grocery stores that offer healthy foods. Hence, disenfranchised neighborhoods become food deserts and people who live in such places experience healthy food vulnerability and insufficiency.
In America, food deserts or disenfranchised neighborhoods are prevalent. One common disenfranchised city is Oakland specifically East and West Oakland where there are many low-income areas. Because the people here only have limited access to healthy foods, it causes them poor health, thus even leading to early death. An article from The Pulse of Oakland (2013), proclaims that in the city of Oakland, there is approximately 400, 000 residents in low-income areas are dying more than a decade earlier than people a few miles away in wealthier neighborhoods. This sad fact somehow raises the question if inequality can really make people sick. Because of unequal distribution of health, people who get less supply of healthy food suffer.
In this article, Melinda Monterosso, an Oakland resident states her story about living in a food desert. At an early age of 15, Melinda was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Apparently, she thought she was young enough to suffer from this disease. Somehow, Melinda realized that she got the disease perhaps because of unhealthy diet. Essentially, unhealthy diet always leads to various diseases. Melissa admits that she eats junk food everyday as well as chips and processed foods. However, she does not think that this is because of personal choice but because healthy foods in their area are not accessible.
Melinda Monterosso lives in a Castlemont, a place where liquor stores and fast food are everywhere. For people in such area, those foods offered around the corner are convenient simply because they are the ones that are accessible. Though there is a grocery store jam-packed with healthy foods in their place, it takes a half-hour bus ride to reach that grocery store. Practically, if a person is hungry especially busy, they are likely to opt for fast food than ride the bus to buy fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, this scenario usually happens because most of the residents there do not have car for a much easier travel. “If I can walk down the street and get something healthy, I’d do it. But I have three corner stores around my home, all walking distance and the nearest supermarket is three or four miles away,” Melinda complained. Such situation would always make Melinda sad and angry that because of living in a food desert, she had to suffer diabetes at a young age. Apparently, people like Melinda Montresso are more practical and they would rather choose convenience over healthy foods in which they have to endure. Sadly, this practicality is making more and more people suffer because of unhealthy living.
Other Factors that Affect/Contribute to Unhealthy Food Consumption
Apart from location, inaccessibility and environment, there are other factors that may affect unhealthy food consumption among people in disenfranchised neighborhoods. According to what the researcher learned from previous health studies, here are some factors that may affect or contribute to unhealthy food consumption in disenfranchised neighborhoods.
Junk Foods in Schools
Though there is a limited access to healthy foods because of their location, this does not mean that schools have to tolerate children from eating unhealthy foods especially junk foods. Basically, eating lots of junk food cause obesity. This is one of the reasons why there are more obese children in poor communities than in wealthy neighborhoods. In relevance to this, the availability of junk foods in schools can contribute to the growing rate of childhood obesity. Though sales of junk food and other competitive foods like sodas and candies may increase the revenue of school canteens, it is still not sensible to encourage children to eat unhealthy foods just because of high profit. In this notes, schools are more reliable on what kinds of food students eat since children spend more of their time at school than at home. Children are the ones who mostly need nutritious and healthy foods but because of junk food availability in schools, their consumption of healthy foods is highly increased.
Gorman (2015) says that junk food availability in schools raises obesity. In her study, she finds out that it is the actual availability of junk food in schools, rather than advertising or pouring rights, that is associated with weight gain. With such finding, the researcher recommends that official policies must ban junk food and soda in schools to help prevent obesity and unhealthy diet among children. Bassier at al (2013) agrees that the foods and beverages in schools, especially junk food and soda, have a significant impact on children’s diets and weight as many students consume more than half of their daily calories at school. Also, Fayerman (2014) finds out in her study that kids who go to schools where junk food and sugary drinks are readily available from vending machines or cafeterias are more likely not only to drink them but also to be obese.
Another factor that affects unhealthy food consumption in disenfranchised neighborhoods is income inequality. Basically, income is much higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Higher compensation makes people in wealthy neighborhoods more capable of buying and eating healthy foods. On the other hand, people in disenfranchised neighborhoods with low income only for cheap food choices which are mostly unhealthy.
A study conducted by Beaulac et al (2010) presents that low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Because of low income and lack of transportation, people in disenfranchised neighborhoods settle for refined grains and foods with added sugars and fats because they are inexpensive. On the other hand, Blundell (2011) summarizes that income inequality has diverse effects on the lives of low-income neighborhoods especially to their health and lifestyle. Because of low income, families in disenfranchised neighborhood cannot have a healthy eating habit and their physical activities are also limited. This is due to lack of parks, gyms and exercise facilities that can help them have a better and healthier lifestyle. Nonetheless, Grier & Kumanyika (2013) highlights that effectively addressing ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in wealthy and disenfranchised neighborhoods require understanding which causes of unhealthy food consumption might be especially prevalent or intensified. This way, it will be easier to understand which factors greatly affect the food choices and eating habits of people who live in food deserts of disenfranchised neighborhoods.
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