Racism in the Food System

Published: 2018-01-11 16:18:11
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Sewanee University of the South
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Food system can be described as the processes that ensures that food is available on the table of every individual in a given country or state. It is, however surprising that there are still cases of food shortages a country like the United States, which is known to produce large quantities of food, and racism is one of the major causes of this (The Food Trust, 2013).

During the 1920s, we find that one in every nine farmers in the United States was Black. Combined, they possessed approximately fifteen million acres of land. Violence, racism and increased migration from the remote South to the developed North have resulted to a steady decrease in the total number of African-American farmers. There have also been a lot of cases about institutional racial intolerance in the USDA’s agricultural policies. By the year 2007, the total number of black farmers came down steadily to about one in 70, and the amount of land owned fell to 4.5 million acres. This actually shows how this population has been oppressed racially by the administrations. As a result, their access to quality food supply has not been easy as it was before. 

Income and Food Accessibility

Ideally, food varieties are available in urban areas. However, the economic status of individuals limits the access to the food variety. In this case, the consumers are interested in economizing in the limited resources and not in accessing the food variety (The Food Trust, 2013). Notably, since the cost of food is important for the low-income earners in the town, the result is the consumptions of unhealthy food variety. Food deserts exist in some areas. The consumer in some locations does not have food they need within their vicinity and travel for long distances to get healthy foods. The low-income earners living in rural areas do not access the food variety (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). The available food is limited and expensive hence the decision to consume unhealthy food. As a result, cases of Obesity and dietary diseases pose a significant threat to human health in such locations. The conditions can cause a public pandemic too. Ideally, supermarkets and shopping mall are not common in rural areas hence there are no food varieties. 

The USDA of 2008 confirms that people eat unhealthy food because of the limited access of food varieties. Consumers in rural areas in the United States face challenges because they are far away from supermarkets that supply the variety of food. The foods stuff available in rural areas are unaffordable to many of the households. The researcher concluded many urban areas had limited supply of healthy foods thus limiting the food variety available to the people (The Food Trust, 2013). At most, six percent of the household in the US had limited access to the food that they needed. This was because of poor access. USDA came up with the estimation that many adults and children live below the poverty line and lack the access to supermarkets that offer clean and healthy foods.  However, these supermarkets have high prices value for their commodities. People who stay in low-income places do not have all the nutrition at the same location. 

Prevalence of Diseases Resulting from Poor Food Choices

Research shows that unhealthy food causes chronic diseases. The situation in urban areas is worse because of lifestyles, which contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular illnesses (The Food Trust, 2013). Research shows that in a place where the consumer is des not choose their food wisely, chronic diseases are prevalent. Additionally, disparities in the distribution of food limited the choices of the consumers. It appears Obesity result from overeating the food of particular variety. Often, obese individuals are at risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. According to their findings, this is a result of limited access to healthy foods and increased exposure to fast food outlets and convenience stores. They reviewed 24 studies, which measured accessibility to healthy foods by socioeconomic and racial/ethnic characteristics of a neighborhood. Eighteen of the studies examined income about fast food exposure (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). The limitations of their research are that it included cross-sectional studies, which could offer other conclusions regarding the cause of obesity beyond access to healthy food. The team found that the inequitable access to healthy food causes a burden on society, and that people need to have equal access regardless of socioeconomic status

Factors that Contribute to Poor Dietary Intake

Hilmers, Hilmers & Dave, (2012) postulates that the limited access to food is a major barrier to nutrition. Ideally, consumers do not have an option for food in zones experiencing food deserts. However, food deserts are a product of low income where the consumers purchase the food within their levels of income. It implies that purchasing power by a household may limit or may allow them to access healthy foods. Remarkably, the research revealed that among lower income residents, those who participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program consumed less whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables compared to residents who did not attend (Hilmers, Hilmers & Dave, 2012). The study also looks at whether improved access to healthy foods translates into increased consumption of healthy foods. Their findings suggest that instead of focusing on access to healthy foods more emphasis should be placed on educating residents of food deserts on how to make healthy food choices. Furthermore, the authors believe that another approach to addressing the challenge of healthy food access lies in making changes to current government assistance food programs 

 Sometimes, a variety of healthy food can be accessible to urban population, yet they may be just too ignorant to choose that option. Some choose to have a poor diet. Some eat many fast foodstuffs, and these add up to their bad cholesterol level that may cause other related illnesses. It implies that people in urban needs sensitization as well as education to get to know how to make sound choices when it comes to healthy foods.

    Impacts of Unhealthy Foods to Human Health    

According to Larson, Story & Nelson (2009), unhealthy food causes diseases to the population. First, unhealthy food compromises with the immune systems of individuals. Ideally, a lower level of immune systems makes the body susceptible to many diseases. Unhealthy food makes physical weak and victims are unable to do basics task. Diseases resulting from unhealthy foods lead to the deterioration of the health of a population. In some incidence, maize containing flax toxin has resulted in the death of millions of people. Stomachache is the universal sign for food poisoning (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). A series of diarrhea usually characterize stomach pain. The seriousness of diarrhea occurs depending on the severity of the infection. Water, which is considered life, harbors many bacteria that if ingested in the gut multiplies and causes various types of illnesses in the human body. Some of the illnesses have severe signs and symptoms and can drain the human body a lot of energy (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). Ideally, ingestion of unhealthy foods threatens the people's health.

Analysis

The USDA report of 2006 indicated on the accessibility of food in supermarkets and stores for both adults and children in the area promotes healthy feeding. The food was also investigated to check on the dietary composition that is recommended by the USDA (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). The report also came up with the lifestyle of the low incomes living in St. Louis and how they accessed their food.  

The report, however, indicated that factors like income and race had a tremendous control on the accessibility of food. They also influenced the type of food found in the stores too. The location of supermarkets and food stores were also affected by these factors. The data revealed the fact that people living in white neighborhoods had a high and constant supply of healthy foods compared to other people residing in areas that were occupied by other races (Sadler, 2016). The food that was sold in white neighborhoods was of high-quality nutrients content compared to the food that was sold in the regions dominated by the Africans American Ford (O'Malley, Gustat, Rice & Johnson, 2013). This scenario was the same with places of high and low-income earners too. 

Also, a study was conducted to check on the availability of food, its access, and prices in three locations that were dominated by low-income earners in Los Angeles, and California urban areas. This study was conducted for two years, that is, 2004 to the year 2006.  The scholars determined the number of supermarkets that were found in one area and went further to investigate on the prices of the foods and safety, which included health. Out of the many stores that were put on the table, thirty percent of the retail stores were mainly selling fast foods. Twenty percent of the mapped out retail stores were selling liquor (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). Unfortunately, supermarkets were only two percent of the total number of the retail stores. The study concluded that there was a food access problem in Los Angeles. Furthermore, affordable foods were not available in this place too, and the communities were suffering.

Other crucial researchers include that of December 2007 and January 2008 in Central Falls. The City of Rhodes Island had very many poor people most of them children. The census that was undertaken in the year 2000 showed that most of the households in the city lived below the average national income level (O'Malley, Gustat, Rice & Johnson, 2013). Central Falls has a large number of Hispanics living in it. A survey was undertaken on retail stores, bakeries, groceries, and meat markets. The study came up with the conclusion that there were less fresh foods, fruits, and vegetables not excluding meat. The prices of the commodities in Central Falls was also unreasonably more than the prices of foods in other parts of the country making a forty-one percent difference in the regular prices of foods and commodities (Sadler, 2016).  The people dwelling in Central Falls as stated by the report had a problem in accessing healthy foods, and if they got lucky to come across healthy foods, the prices were very high than the regular prices.

Another significant study is the research based in Philadelphia. This study emphasized on the differences that were found in the microbial quality of foods and the safety of the foods that was being accessed by low-income earners. All these studies were conducted at a retail level. Yeast, aerobic counts, and, mold counts were determined in watermelons, strawberries, broccoli and milk. The results that were obtained in this study were then compared to the results of foods that can be accessed by the high-income earners in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia (Larson, Story & Nelson, 2009). The study was conducted between the June of the year 2005 and the September of the year 2006.

The foodstuff sold in the residential areas of the high-income earner is safe and healthy. However, in areas inhabited by low-income earners, the food are cheaper and of low quality. The scholars, however, assumed that the businesspersons who sold foods in the regions dominated by low-income earners lacked enough facilities to ensure that food is safe and good for consumption. They also did not have the right knowledge on how to maintain their foods safe.  Speculations were that these traders had inadequate means of transports that did not have refrigeration. The retailers would buy low standard foods at a lower price to meet the demands of the high customer base.

 The data that has been given show that low-income earners buy low-quality foods compared to the high-income earners (Sadler, 2016). The low-income earners lack access to quality foods compared to high-income earners. The low-income earners depend on small-scale retailers for the supply of foods. The small retailers, however, provide sub-standard goods.

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