Importance of Accessible Healthy Foods

Food insecurity is a problem in this country, but unfortunately the solution isn’t a simple answer. In general, when asked to participate in a food drive or donate to a local food pantry, many people will gladly fork over a few dollars for some canned and boxed food. The problem then, is not the willingness to give, but rather, the awareness of WHAT we are giving. Sure some boxed cookies will fill the empty stomach of a child for a few hours, but what is that box of cookies really doing for that child? What about in ten years when that child, whose family relied on donations of low cost, high sugar foods to put food on the table, has type two diabetes?


Nationwide in the United States, 31.3 percent of children ages 10-17 are obese or overweight. However, nearly 45% of children ages 10-17 are obese or overweight who live in a household with an income at or below federal poverty level. Doesn’t that seem off? More children living in poverty are obese than children living above the poverty line. We recognize a similar pattern in adults as well. Highly processed, sodium and sugar infused foods, which are linked to obesity and other illnesses, are the foods that are easily accessible and cheap. Mexico is in the same boat. Fast cheap food is becoming more easily accessible, with OXXO's and 7/11 convienence stores going in on every street corner, in every nighborhood, and the only healthy item in their stores is the water. While it is important to work toward solving food insecurity in this country, the US and the world. It is pointless if the food that is “feeding” people is also harming them. Obesity is just the start of lifelong problems including chronic illnesses and even early death.

It is not a simple fix, a light switch or a knob that we could turn to fill pantries with fresh, healthy foods. What our system needs is a makeover. We need to make the access of fresh, healthy food more readily available and more affordable. We need to educate citizens who shop at, donate to and work with food drives, pantries and organizations that feed the hungry about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and how they can do so. Most importantly, we need to take ownership of the fact that we have been doing it wrong. We cannot sit here any longer and pretend that food, regardless of quality and nutrition, is the solution. Filling bellies is only half of the solution, the other half involves changing the way our system thinks. The next time you donate food to your local food drive, think about whether it is food you put (or rather, should put) into your own body or the body of someone you love. If not, perhaps leave the cookies on the shelf and donate some whole-grains instead.

*Statistics found on childhealthdata.org. This article was written by Alina Prusko, Nutritional Options for Wellness intern at Access.

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