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Is Food a Race Issue? Of Course It Is…

August 24, 2013

Nikki Henderson, the Executive Director of People’s Grocery in West Oakland, offered a powerful presentation to The Commonwealth Club last week in which she highlights the intersection of health, food, and race. It’s under 8 minutes in length and is well worth a watch.

Founded in 2003, People’s Grocery is dedicated to expanding access to healthy food while improving the local economy in West Oakland by developing the local food system. Like many economically depressed areas, West Oakland is a food desert, an area in which liquor stores and fast food restaurants—and a lack of grocery stores stocking fresh fruits and vegetables—defines the foodscape. As People’s Grocery notes,  “Although a handful of small grocery stores have recently sprouted, they are not adequate to support about 25,000 residents who live in the neighborhood. In contrast, there are more than 50 liquor stores that sell over-priced, over-processed junk food, “energy” drinks, and many other unhealthy items. As a result, skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases exist, especially among children. Health disparities between West Oakland and affluent communities nearby are well documented.”

Blogging at Huffington Post, Mehroz Baig points out that socioeconomic factors “play a major role in access to healthy food,” and that these socioeconomic factors are deeply connected to race. While there are people of all races and ethnicities across the country suffering from hunger and a lack of access to fresh, healthy food,  minorities are more likely to be poor and thus suffer from hunger and live in food deserts at disproportionately higher rates. Food and hunger are thus clearly—though not exclusively—race issues.

Watch Nikki Henderson’s presentation to the Commonwealth Club below.


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