Nutrition and Food Insecurity as a Social Determinant of Health

Did you know?
In New York 650,000 people live in food desserts--an area where the poverty rate is 20% or higher, and where, in cities, a third of residents live more than a mile from a grocery store. Of the 62 counties in New York State, 32 counties have food deserts The percentage of people that are not food secure in the Capital Region is 11.98%, and NYC is at 13.9%. Nationally, 15.4% of households struggle with food security. The numbers are even greater today because of the COVID pandemic. (Source: Siena College Community Policy Institute website.)

The issue of Food Insecurity was addressed in a recent episode of the TV program “60 Minutes”. The segment titled “Racial Equity and Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis” aired on CBS on April 17, 2021.

Those interviewed commented on the lack of equal care given to people of color (aka “racism”), since many people of color live in low-income neighborhoods, where many do not have access to healthy foods. For those living in a food desert, the opportunity for healthier choices can be solved by opening a supermarket. Yet, outside interests, community push-back and redlining of low-income areas (“undesirable investment areas ”) can squelch any progress to address food insecurity and/or improve the quality of life.

Food and nutrition are considered Social Determinants of Health, since healthy food impacts a wide range of health and quality of life outcomes. Food and Nutrition and access to healthy food play a part in health equity.

Here is the link to watch the 60 Minutes segment:

What is Systemic Racism”: “What is Systemic Racism” is a series of eight 1-minute long videos discussing various aspects of systemic racism such as housing discrimination, immigration policy, and infant mortality. The videos are a good introduction to systemic racism told in ways that are easy to grasp and digest. Taken together, the videos can be repetitive since they have the same intro and outro, but overall, the videos are good nuggets of information that can be really useful when describing systemic racism in general or to emphasize housing discrimination or racism in drug policy, for example. Video Link:

The “Health Equity Corner” highlights health equity activities that you can try in order to empower yourself to become a more effective player in the quest for racial equity and justice. Here you will find suggestions from a variety of sources to become a racial equity Champion. Rotating entries include readings, activities, podcasts, videos, observations and quizzes, and other ways to form and deepen community connections.

READ & CONNECT: "Colors of Us"

Why are multicultural children's books so important?

Under the heading "CONNECT" I chose to address this question and look at "Colors of Us"

I believe a good place to start in all of the race talks, anti-racism, diversity is to TEACH our youth. They are our future. If we want change to happen and fairness/equality, shouldn’t it start with those who will run the world. Together? Shouldn’t they grow up feeling a sense of pride, acknowledged, unjudged and accepted for who they are and what they can bring to the table? Creating that sense of being human at a young age and putting positive ideas in our youths’ minds. Not constantly having a of a cloud of negativity following them around on a daily basis.

This review brought up questions and reminded me of the commercials that Cheerios put out over the last several years. They put a white father, black mother and biracial child in the commercials to ‘address’ what is a reality for some. Why is it necessary to see what you live? See what is reflective of a person’s life? Why shouldn’t a child have access to playing with a Baby doll? Barbie Doll that looks like them? They should…it’s their reality and placing a book in front of a child that represents them is important today, more than ever!

“How Does Racism Affect Your Health?” is a 12-minute TED Talk on NPR dated Dec. 16, 2019). The video features Mary Basset, Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former Commissioner of Health for New York City. It raises a few important questions: How does race really affect the medical attention that we receive? Who gets care and who doesn’t get care? This podcast made me think about structural change, and what tools I may need to help be a part of the “Anti-Racism” movement. I also pondered: What is the role of doctors, educators, hospitals, health care systems, the state, DOH, etc. in battling racism? Dr. Basset says that “our voices give credibility”, and that we need to start getting comfortable saying the word “Racism”. As a result, I am learning to feel more comfortable saying both “Racism” and “Anti-Racism”.

WATCH & READ: A Poem for my White Friends: “I Didn’t Tell You.”

Ever wonder what a day in the life of a person of color is like?
It may be hard to hear both from a black perspective and white perspective, but it’s real.
Many of the issues addressed in her poem, I have experienced firsthand. It’s not easy to be looked at as a “person of color” and have all kinds of negative opinions placed on you, as soon as you step foot in the door. To constantly have to prove yourself, over and over again. This poem is worth 7 minutes of your time to simply try and understand another person’s reality.