The topic of food access is a personal one for me, being from the small city of Pueblo, Colo., where half the population is Hispanic and 32 percent lives below the poverty line. Growing up, I consumed a diet heavily based on fast food, sodas, canned vegetables and packaged foods. I had never heard the word “organic” until my sophomore year of college in Boulder, Colo., when I stepped foot into a Whole Foods for the first time.
It was then that I began to question where my food came from and discovered my interest in nutrition. I now know I grew up in what the Department of Agriculture refers to as a “food desert:” an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.
“Food desert” seems to be a commonly used term nowadays. But beyond the deserts are food swamps, and neither are beneficial to a community’s health. Hilda Gutiérrez, Food Access Manager of the Sustainable Food Center (SFC), informed me that food swamps tend to be of more concern within the city of Austin, particularly in East Austin.
Food swamps are areas saturated with unhealthy food options offered by large corporations that target low-income communities of color. Not coincidentally, this is the population most affected by diet-related, preventable illness, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Fast food is cheap food. For families struggling to put meals on the table, the road leading to the drive-thru is often well-traveled. [Read more…]