Stable access to food is incredibly important for the well-being of humans and our societies. Think about your observations of the world and discuss what you think might support or hinder access to food for various populations.
In simple words, a food desert is defined as an area where nutritious food is nonexistent or not accessible to the population due to a lack of healthy food providers and grocery stores. On the other hand, food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent and affordable access to enough nutritious food or sustenance to sustain the well-being and activity levels for an active and healthy life of every member of a household. Food insecurity and food deserts can be caused by a variety of significant factors such as low income or unemployment, high food prices, and limited availability of healthy food options in one’s local area. Both food desert and food insecurity are related but they are not interchangeable terms.
Situations like food insecurity and food deserts can lead to significant negative impacts on the overall health of different populations, particularly those that are already vulnerable. For instance, food deserts and food insecurity can lead to poor nutrition and inadequate access to healthy foods. This can result in an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease in people who are already vulnerable such as aging people, children, and breastfeeding women. In the case of pandemics such as the Earth just witnessed global pandemic, COVID-19, individuals who are already facing health disparities and chronic diseases are at a higher risk of severe illness and death. Individuals living in food deserts or experiencing food insecurity are at great risk of developing chronic illnesses such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Moreover, these situations can aggravate existing social and economic inequalities leading to further disparities in health outcomes.
In order to combat food insecurity and food desert situations, one example of a program that addresses such situations is the World Food Programme (WFP) which provides food assistance to people affected by conflict and natural disasters around the world. The WFP helps to resolve food insecurity situations by providing emergency food assistance, helping communities build resilience through sustainable livelihood programs, and supporting nutrition programs for children. Another program that addresses such situations is the “United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” (UNHCR), which aims to provide food assistance to people who are refugees or other displaced persons who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution. These programs aim to help resolve food insecurity, food deserts, and pandemic situations by providing essential resources such as food, shelter, and medical aid to people in need.