Growing Home’s Food Pantry distributed over 200,000 pounds of food to families in 2019, which is enough to feed 32 families of four for an entire year. But what factors are at play that lead people to our Food Pantry? Today, we will be looking at the complicated issues that lead to food insecurity through the lens of food justice and will answer some common questions about the topic. What is food insecurity? What does it mean to live in a food desert? And what you can do to help alleviate some of these problems?
One of the most used terms when discussing the factors that contribute to the need for food assistance is food insecurity. Food insecurity refers to people who have inconsistent access to healthy, quality, and diverse food options. This is further broken down into two categories: low food security and very low food security.
Being in the low food security group means that there are still food options available to you, but those options are lacking in nutritional value. This often results, not in going hungry, but instead having your overall health suffer by consistently eating unhealthy foods. The effects of which can include obesity, increased risk of heart disease, and an increase risk of developing diabetes. The main difference between low food security and very low food security is the component of hunger. People in the very low food security group face the same challenges of not having nutritious food options available to them. However, they also do not have the means to access enough food for themselves and/or their family, resulting in one or more people going hungry.
Food insecurity is often caused or exacerbated by living in a food desert, which is defined as an area where it is difficult to find readily available fresh food options that are affordable to the people in that community. Food deserts are most commonly found in rapidly expanding urban cities and in rural areas. Denver falls into the rapidly expanding urban category, which means that it is prone to developing food deserts. It is also important to note that food deserts have a disproportionately higher impact on low income individuals. Not having access to transportation and not living by supermarkets accessible by walking or mass transportation are just some of the components that create the issue of food deserts.
To be in a place of total food security, communities need to have access to fresh and affordable food. One way that cities are working to ease the burden of food deserts and promote food security is by investing in community gardens and local farmers markets. This gives residents in those areas the ability to get fresh food at a low cost in a location that is easy to access. Some organizations in the Denver Metro Area are aiding this effort and now Growing Home is entering the mix.
This coming summer, in collaboration with the City of Westminster, Growing Home will be expanding on our community garden. The garden will be at the Irving Street Library and will fill a critical gap for residents in that area. This project was spearheaded by a Growing Home participant and volunteer, Sara Diaz, who saw a need in her community and worked to address it. Now, more people in Westminster will be able to access nutritious food for their families.