During the 2022 Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance’s Food Justice Summit, presenters discussed the concept of food insecurity as it relates to the inequalities present within marginalized and minority communities. Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to the necessary amount of food to live an active and healthy lifestyle. This problem could be more challenging for those living in a food desert or lacking the financial resources to afford the necessary amount of food or healthy foods to thrive, putting those who are food insecure at a severe disadvantage. Other factors that lead to hunger include low or underemployment, family instability, low educational attainment, exposure to violence, and racial or ethnic discrimination. In 2021, 13.5 million households, or around 33.8 million people were food insecure; that is one in every 10 Americans. These rates are even higher for indigenous peoples and people of color.
These inequalities are direct consequences of the structural racism that has reinforced inequitable systems (for example, housing, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, healthcare, criminal justice, etc.) within the United States. Black and Hispanic communities are significantly affected by this, having consistently experienced higher rates of food insecurity, poverty, and other factors that hinder one’s well-being compared to their white counterparts. During the Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance’s Food Justice Summit, Calvin Roberson, Director of the Community Outreach and Engagement team at the Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, states, “ People of color are more likely to experience food insecurity because of the economic disadvantage and the social positioning that they are experiencing, which limits their access to good, livable wage jobs” that offer continued access to further education and advancement.
Food banks, food pantries, and other charitable and government food assistance programs have been able to relieve the strain of food insecurity throughout Indiana and the United States. However, with recent policy and political challenges, we have seen these benefits and resources diminish in times when people need food assistance at astounding rates. Expanding access to the existing federal food programs, like SNAP and WIC, would help in addressing food insecurity. Hoosiers are encouraged to acknowledge their role in food insecurity and other disparities and make strides toward food equity, so that all people will have the ability and the opportunity to consume or grow healthy, affordable, and culturally significant foods.
You can watch the 2022 Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance Summit: Building and Sustaining an Equitable Food System here. Continuing education credits may be available for those who were unable to participate in the live event. Slides shared during the event are available at the following links:
Connections IN Health/Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance slides
Structural Racism slides
People’s Cooperative Market slides
Purdue University Health Equity slides
Food Systems slides
If you are interested in joining the Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance and the Connections IN Health network, please join here.