Dear Catered Fit Friends and Family,
I try to come to you monthly with business updates from Catered Fit, my thoughts on the world, or even sharing some musings on something new I read. The last time we spoke, we were in the middle of a pandemic, our gyms and restaurants were closed, and we were all navigating what was a new normal. It has been a month since then, somehow simultaneously the shortest & the longest month many of us have experienced in our lives, (I keep checking the calendar to see if it is actually June or just April 72nd) but this month is very different than the ones that have preceded it.
This month, I feel strongly that I have even more of a reason to open this communication about something that is very near and dear to our hearts here at Catered Fit. We typically keep our focus mostly on food, but we know that food can be extremely political. We built Catered Fit on the mission of bringing healthy meals to the American home, and now we are learning just what that has to mean. The murder of George Floyd and countless others are being protested in the streets across this county, demanding racial equality and justice for Black people – human beings, our brothers and sisters, our friends and colleagues, the people we share this world with. That is why we have to address what is happening, and we have to do it the way we know how… by talking about food.
Let me ask you something, (and answer honestly to yourself), have you ever heard of a food desert? If the answer is no, don’t beat yourself up, because it wasn’t until recently we learned of the term. So what is a Food Desert? Food Deserts are areas where access to affordable, healthy, food options is limited because grocery stores are just too far away. These areas are often low-income, and many are not able to afford transportation to the higher quality grocery stores versus local limited stores. Why is this such a problem? Without access to larger groceries, the only options are smaller local stores or convenience stores. Isolated, smaller stores sell at higher prices than non-isolated stores, based on the availability of products in the area and convenience stores do not prioritize healthy eating which makes junk food cheap and easy. This means people on SNAP need to make critical decisions based on how to stretch their dollar, rather than how to best feed their families.
Here are some stats that I personally found shocking:
- 23.5 million people live in low-income areas more than one mile from a supermarket
- Residents living in food deserts have a hard time finding foods that are culturally relevant and that meet their dietary restrictions
- Only 8 percent of African Americans live in a neighborhood with a supermarket compared to 31 percent of white Americans
- Food deserts may be under-reported because the North American Industry Classification System places small corner stores in the same category as grocery stores like Whole Foods
- People living in the poorest areas have 2.5 times the exposure to fast-food restaurants as those living in the wealthiest areas.
What does all of this mean? That we live in a complex system that intertwines something so simple as healthy, accessible food choices with socioeconomic status, and by extension, race. When I first read that 23M Americans live more than a mile from a grocery, it didn’t hit me why that was such an issue, but in reading more, it became clear that even my interpretation of the information was foggy. A mile didn’t seem far to me, because I have a car, but to someone who does not have transportation easily accessible, and only has food stamps to finance a month of food, spending any amount of money to get groceries, is extremely problematic. This problem is then grossly exacerbated by the fact that while fresh, healthy, ingredients might not be available, quick, easy fast-food is on every corner.
Did I say every corner? I mean every corner. In low-income areas, fast-food establishments are not just accessible; they are overtly marketed to these communities as alternatives, and it is a lot easier to stretch a dollar on the dollar menu, when the meats are pumped with vast arrays of man made chemicals and everything is fried. Which lends itself to greater percentages of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in food desert areas. African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to be obese than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These disparities in obesity rates start in childhood. Not coincidentally, fast-food companies are more likely to promote their foods to minority children than to whites, potentially shaping diet preferences from a young age.
The disproportionate correlation between race and health issues is a travesty, and in many many ways, preventable. There is no shortage of articles on how fast-food has supersized inequality and much of the root cause of obesity, lies in poverty, which is tragically a condition far more prevalent in communities of color.
For many of us, this is and has been the greatest country in the world. Each day, I sit at my desk in front of the American flag I have painted on my wall. I also have our great flag at the entry to our Catered Fit building in Ft. Lauderdale, because I know I have had great opportunities in this country, and could not have accomplished what I have anywhere else. But I admit that while that is true, I must acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do to make this nation a better and more equal place.
While we all take notice and action to make sure everyone has a seat at the table, we want to make sure everyone also has a healthy plate of food. Only by educating ourselves and addressing the problem at its root, can we begin to really affect change. Catered Fit donates thousands of meals each week, and now we are going to be sure that we extend our efforts, donations and resources to battle food deserts in this country. I hope you all join us in this challenge.
Health is wealth,
P.S. If you are interested in checking for food deserts around your area, check out this link: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas.aspx
If you want to continue some reading, here are some links you might find useful: