Food insecurity in developed countries is an ongoing and complex issue that exists for a multitude of reasons. However, while there are many barriers to preventing food security, there are also many communities that have naturally stepped up to combat this battle (Diehl et al., 2020; TED. 2018). As we learn about the role many communities have been playing, it will become very clear as to what the government, more specifically urban planners must do in order to ultimately put this food insecurity issue to a rest. The power of communities as well as the influence that urban planners have over sustainability issues existing in today’s world will be extremely evident.
Food security can be defined as the idea that everyone is always able to physically, socially, and financially access healthy and nutritious food (“Food Security”, n.d.). There are many factors preventing food security, one of the main ones being the financial capacity that low-income residents have to spend on food (Diehl et al., 2020). Buying fresh and healthy food is a privilege that is often overseen. With many low-income residents having to work low paying service jobs, the only food they are able to afford is cheaper, preservative filled foods such as gas stations and fast food restaurant items (Diehl et al., 2020).
Another barrier in the way of these residents being able to purchase nutritious foods is the way North American low-income communities are typically planned (Diehl et al., 2020). These areas become so neglected that it is common to find their transit systems inaccessible regardless of the fact that many low-income residents may not own a car. Low-income communities also do not have as many grocery stores but instead have a surplus of fast food restaurants (Diehl et al., 2020). With poorly planned transportation systems and a lack of grocery stores, the commute to grocery stores can become very inconvenient (Diehl et al., 2020). This results in less grocery trips and instead enough preservative filled foods in households to last in between these trips (Diehl et al., 2020).
With the little food that low-income residents are able to eat being unhealthy as well, this presents an entirely new set of problems related to possible health issues that can arise. Diseases such as obesity are not uncommon to find in these areas especially when we look at the way these areas have been planned (Diehl et al., 2020).
Although the transit system and fast food restaurant to grocery store ratio have been discussed as prominent factors, other urban planning related issues play a key role in the increase of health issues. The neglect that is often seen in these communities results in inaccessibility to healthcare as well (Diehl et al., 2020). There is also a lack of funding going into free forms of recreation which is much needed in order to combat the unhealthy lifestyles occurring (Diehl et al., 2020). The health concerns alone that food insecurity presents shows the key role urban planning takes in this issue.
Although the issues regarding food insecurity show the lack of government support and urban planning involvement, communities across North America have started to take this matter into their own hands. A common solution that low-income neighborhoods are working on to reach food security is urban agriculture done through grassroots movements (TED, 2018). Low-income communities such as the ones found in Brightmore, Detroit are transitioning from being underdeveloped to being vibrant communities (TED, 2018). This process involves community members coming together to build urban gardens that are able to grow local crops for residents to consume (TED, 2018). Some of these urban gardens have even expanded to have a small market or cafe where the harvest is prepared and sold by community members to community members (TED, 2018). Overall, this grassroots initiative tackles the issue of food insecurity as it provides accessible forms of healthy food while building strong community cohesion and using profits to further improve communities (TED, 2018).
Many communities may be doing their part to fight the effects of food insecurity however, it is not enough to entirely diminish this issue. While urban agriculture through grassroots movements is an ideal first step towards improving communities and strengthening the voices of low-income residents, they need more support to reach their full potential (TED, 2018). This includes resources and leadership from the most powerful stakeholder, the government. Having local governments and the urban planners involved is necessary to not only combat the root issues such as improving transit lines and healthcare access, but also working with communities to support their initiatives in place. Overall, low income communities facing food insecurity need the time, attention, care, and resources from all stakeholders in order to move towards a healthier future.
Diehl, J., Heard, D., Lockhart, W., and Main, D (2020) Access in the Food Environment:A Health Equity Approach Reveals Unequal Opportunity.Journal of Planning Education and Research, 40(1), 69–81
Food Security. Ifpri.org. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security
TED. (2018, January 9). “How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit | Devita Davison” [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G88JZ1DIdg8
Ulijn, D. (2020). [Urban farming] [Photograph]. WordPress. https://planetgeogblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/urban-farming-a-tool-for-regeneration/