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While many there are many health issues that are a cause for great concern in our country, some of the most detrimental are diet-related diseases. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are just a few high-risk diseases that affect millions of people each year. One cause of these health issues are food deserts throughout our country. The USDA describes food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.
” Here in Colorado, many food deserts exist and cause a verity of health problems that effect not just a few individuals, but whole families and future generations as well. While there is great work being done nationwide and locally to amend these issues, the cycle of food insecurities (or the stress caused little to no access to nutritious foods) continues to persist.
Food insecurity, or the stress that arises when one isn’t sure where their next meal will come from and are likely to have unbalanced diets, is perpetuated through a cycle in which a person or family does not have easy access to nutritious foods.
When combined with financial stress and the stress of where to find food next, diet related health issues appear. Because of the time and cost it takes to alleviate and manage these health issues, it can create further stress on a household spending plan and leave little to no funds for nutritious foods and medical care – and the cycle continues.
Some major health risks that come from food insecurity includes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and severe stress.
Families in food deserts fight to cope with these issues but can find it hard to break the cycle. One food desert in Colorado is in Montbello, where the cycle of food insecurity greatly affects many families. A close friend and student at Metro State, Shaun Fields stated “Ever since I can remember my mom was always sick. My brother and I dropped out of school to work and help pay the bills when my mom got really sick. It sucks, you know, being [overweight] like this and I try to eat better, but when I go home it’s always the same food. It’s like you’re stuck in this cycle and the most important people are telling you to get out, but they don’t, so you don’t either.”
Shaun grew up in Montbello his whole life, and experienced food insecurity first hand. While obesity and diabetes surrounded his life for many years, different food programs helped Shaun and many others to understand the necessary nutrition he needed to lower major health risks. The “Roadrunner Food Pantry” at Metro State University helps to not just fight hunger, but to also educate and inform students about basic nutritious needs and how to obtain these affordably. Students like Shaun, can come and learn how to live outside the cycle they’ve lived in for most of their lives. Other programs on the Auraria campus exist like the Roadrunner Pantry, but possibly more importantly – campaigns like Let’s Move! created by Michelle Obama in 2010 fight to improve diet related health problems within elementary and high schools. The Hunger-Free Kids Act is one result from the Let’s Move! campaign and is updating school mean standards to provide nutritionally balanced meals and to help educate children at a young age to make heathier choices.
Food deserts pose a particular and extremely dangerous problem nationwide. Without proper access to nutritious foods, millions of families suffer from diet-related diseases. These health problems are perpetuated through the cycle of food insecurity, and proper education and availability of necessary nutrients continue to be scarce. Many local and nationwide programs are fighting to change the circumstances of food deserts, and hopefully will continue to change the lifestyle and mindsets of many people like Shaun. Shaun finished our time by laughing, “You better put in your paper that I’ve lost almost 100 pounds in the last year and a half. That’s important. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without someone showing me how to be different.” I would have to agree with Shaun there.
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