FNCE: Moving from Food Assistance to Food Equity

ReaperFNCE 20201 opens today online. But pre-meeting symposia yesterday set the table for four days of rich information flowing about food and nutrition. COVID is still with us, so the meeting is virtual. Thus an outstanding session on nutrition, equity, and COVID-19 hit the mark especially well. In particular, it drew us into thinking more deeply about food equity. Because food assistance is not good enough. Food equity should be the goal.

Qwamel Hanks works with USAID on food security and resilience.  Leading into the symposium, Hanks explained why she pursued a career in nutrition:

“Food is a basic human right. Everyone, no matter what their income is, deserves this right and access to good food.

“I wanted to study dietetics when I went to college because we don’t want to just make sure that people have enough food to eat. We want to make sure they’re eating healthy food.”

With food equity, people have access to healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods.

COVID-19 and Systems of Inequity

Social Determinants of HealthCordialis Msora-Kasago explained with compelling clarity how social factors meant that some communities experienced a crushing burden from COVID-19 that far exceeded the impact more privileged communities felt.

Food and nutrition is an important part of these factors and it works in concert with them. Neighborhoods play a big role in defining food environments. Education, transportation, economic opportunities, health systems, and safety all interact to play a role in a person’s nutrition and health status. People who are poorly nourished have been more at risk for poor outcomes in the pandemic.

Moving Toward Food Equity

COVID-19 has made it plain that global food systems are broken. They do not meet the needs for food equity even though they do well to provide vast quantities of calories in forms that are increasingly homogenized.  But these systems do poorly against the goal of truly healthful and culturally significant foods.

Food aid will not solve this problem. Global systems may not be up to the task. Rather, it may come down to local community-based food systems and governance to solve these problems. This shift will challenge us because food inequity has its roots in social and economic inequity. Achieving food equity will require letting go of  privileges that serve to keep others down.

It will not be easy. But we cannot continue to prosper in isolation from our neighbors. Sooner or later our fortunes rise and fall together.

Click here, here, and here for more on food equity.

Reaper, painting by Kazimir Malevich / WikiArt

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October x, 2021