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LexCares2

Everyone has the right to a good meal.

Non-profit organization
Plays major role in feeding thousands of families in Atlanta and North Georgia.
18.7% of the people living in Georgia are food insecure, meaning that they do not always know where they will find their next meal
28.2% of Georgia children live in food insecure households.

Service network including more than 400 nonprofit organizations and schools
Meal preparation and delivery to disabled and elderly
Mentorship programs
Park preservation
Book donations

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What is a "Food Desert?"

An urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food

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The USDA defines "food deserts" as:

parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

I'm choosing to expand on the topic of a food desert because of a recent story about Stone Mountain, Georgia, which is only 20 miles outside the city of Atlanta. (You can read the story for yourself HERE.)

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After 18 years of business, a Kroger in one of the busiest areas of DeKalb County is shutting down because of "declining sales and negative profit." The nearest grocery stores are 3 to 5 miles away, which turns this area into a food desert. When food is NOT accessible within one mile of a community, the community is deemed a food desert. Communities with grocery stores and other whole foods providers are known as "food oases."

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what a food desert is, let's talk about some issues associated with being in a food desert. 

There may be many stores that offer food for sale, such as gas stations, fast food restaurants, and quick shops, but these places usually only offer quick snacks and have a very limited selection of fresh or whole foods. (I think the best quality food I've ever seen in a gas station has been small loaves of bread and different sizes of milk.) The problem with relying on these kinds of stores is the fact that nutritionally valuable foods are non-existent. When do you go to these stores, anyway? You're most likely traveling and have stopped for a quick snack to hold you over until you can get to your destination for a real meal. No one is supposed to rely on these places to eat!

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Because options are limited to packaged and processed foods, nutritional values are low, and, as a result, the community is exposed to sugary and high fat content on a regular basis. Consistently eating these foods can lead to obesity and high blood pressure as well as other chronic illnesses, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. As a result of these diseases, people in these communities are also susceptible to higher health care costs, which then can send them deeper down the poverty hole. There are so many short-term and long-standing issues associated with food deserts, and I haven't even linked the existence of food deserts to its partner food insecurity!

Comparison

Let's take a look at a few differences between a "Food Desert" and a "Food Oasis"

Food Oasis

Many options from whole foods providers-

More competition between stores means lower prices for food-

More food quality leads to less health issues-

Usually in average to higher income areas-

Better reception to education due to access to healthy foods and high food security-

Food Desert

-Limited or NO access to fresh whole foods

-Higher cost of food from lack of grocery store competition

- Low food quality leads to higher risk of disease and chronic illness

-Prone to crime (hunger leads to behavioral issues)

-Negative impact on education (hungry kids have a harder time focusing)

These are just a few differences. Much more impactful information about food deserts could be presented.

SOLUTIONS

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1. Fight to keep food programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) available for anyone who needs the help

2. Support your local food pantry (or a charity that helps to feed the community).

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3. Learn more about the effects of hunger and how it could impact you and the people around you.

4. Participate in or start a garden (community garden).

5. Support mobile food pantries (buy or donate to them).

6. Support small chain grocery stores. (Sometimes small, affordable grocery stores can't exist because huge grocery giants like Wal-Mart, Kroger, or Publix offer lower prices that some smaller stores can't compete with.)

7. Volunteer with your local food pantry or charity. (Actually seeing how people are affected and learning the causes of these issues will give you better insight into how to help combat the problem.)

There are many other ways to help combat food deserts. Don't rely on this list, and don't think these are your only options! YOU have the power to combat food deserts, even if you're fighting by yourself. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. If this is an issue that you feel is close to your heart, think of what you can do to help, then make it happen!

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Thursday November, 30, 2017

What is "Food Security?"

The state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food

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I made a lot of short references to the various levels of food security on my Instagram page @lexcatl. What I wasn't able to include on those posts was the formal definitions of terms we hear often: food security and hunger.

Food Security: The condition assessed in the food security survey is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food

Hunger: An individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity

The USDA defines food security for a family as:

Access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).

Below, you'll see the categories used by the USDA to conduct a national annual survey of 50,000 households

High -  Household has no problems or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food

High -  Household has no problems or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food

Marginal - Household had problems at times or anxiety about accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially disrupted

Marginal - Household had problems at times or anxiety about accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially disrupted

Low - Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted

Low - Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted

Very Low - At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food

Very Low - At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food

I'd like you to take a moment to consider these different categories. Could you, at some point in your life, have been placed in one other than "high" or "marginal?" I know for me, although I had the support of my parents, there were times in college where I felt like I didn't have enough money to buy decent food, which is an issue that stemmed partially from not making enough money between my two jobs and having too much fear or pride to simply ask for more money and help from my parents.

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Those considerations noted, I'm asking you to keep a more open mind for what it means to have "food insecurity." There are so many unique situations that may cause people to be food insecure. Don't think you're not in direct contact with someone who struggles! What I would like for you and for the rest of our society to do is be better! Simply put, let's allow ourselves to be more open and empathetic with each other.

When you observe and think about who could be placed in a position to not be able to feed themselves properly, understand that the stereotypical faces of struggle that come to mind are not the only people having a hard time feeding themselves. Of course there are people who face homelessness, which usually means they're also threatened by lack of food security, but what about other people who, like me, may have secretly struggled and showed no signs of outward hardship? Let's not even take into consideration the number of people who don't feed themselves properly from lack of food education or basic cooking skills. We're talking about people who, despite working their asses off to live a decent life, may still fall just short of having everything taken care of.

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The reason why some of us don't recognize those who are struggling is because often we make people feel as though they can't show anything other than perfection or anything other than strength. As with our emotions, situations are ever changing, so at any moment's notice any one of us could be affected by a sudden shift in our lives that changes our ability to "handle" things. We all struggle. No one of us is perfect. And, we all need to be aware that life has its ebbs and flows and that our struggles are not a sign of weakness. If we can all remember that we suffer the same pains, the simple first step of recognizing the many faces of food insecurity will be made possible. From there we can work together to end food insecurity, but the first step is always recognition!

P.S. How was your Thanksgiving?

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