December 4, 2018; Generocity
According to Hunger Free America’s 2018 United States Hunger Atlas, one in eight Americans, representing 12.3 percent of the population, are food insecure, meaning they are unable to afford a consistent supply of food throughout the year. While this is startling enough, when looking at racial and ethnic disparities, the story is far more concerning, and reveals a direct connection between discrimination and food insecurity.
Many nonprofits address food insecurity programmatically by delivering services that alleviate hunger. However, programs and services aren’t enough. Nonprofits must diligently work to understand the dynamics of systemic racism and the impacts it has on communities of color, including the implications racism has on the incidence of food insecurity. This understanding is the basis of, and is essential to, dismantling systems that perpetuate inequality. Nonprofits interested in expanding their perspective on the connection between discrimination and food insecurity can review five reports released last week by Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, a Philadelphia-based research, service, advocacy, and policy center whose goal is developing innovative, empirically-tested solutions to the challenges of hunger and economic insecurity.
This series, entitled “From Disparities to Discrimination: Getting at the Roots of Food Insecurity in America,” places discrimination into a contemporary context and looks at disparities and discrimination in Philadelphia. Basing research in Philadelphia is in part because of the location of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, but also because the reality of food insecurity in the city: 302,685 people, or 18.3 percent of the population, experienced food insecurity between 2015–17, representing an increase of 22 percent over the past six years. This is coupled with a high poverty rate of over 25 percent and, more broadly, with limited access to healthy foods, as is reflected in the city having the highest proportion of residents with diabetes of any big city in America.
Drawing on the research expertise of Children’s HealthWatch, a nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers, and children’s health and policy experts, each report in the series explores the dynamics of discrimination in various settings, and its impact on food insecurity. Specifically, the reports focus on four major areas: schools and workplaces; housing, public assistance, and healthcare; streets, public settings and judicial systems; and disparities in household food insecurity by immigration, race, and ethnicity. A major finding of the research is that people who experienced discrimination firsthand struggled with hunger twice as often as others, regardless of when—or where—that discrimination occurred. The takeaway is that someone who experiences racism and discrimination is more likely to be food insecure.
In addition to detailing the connection between discrimination and food insecurity, each report discusses potential solutions. While not exhaustive, here are some of the ones discussed in the series:
- Discrimination in Education. Train education professionals in implicit bias and hold schools accountable by tracking student outcomes based on race and ethnicity.
- Employment and Wages. Ensure that hiring practices focus on fair processes and equal pay for men and women and that anti-discrimination policies in hiring and in workplace settings are properly enforced.
- Housing. Strengthen and enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1964, which aims to protect renters and home buyers from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, ability, and religion.
- Healthcare. Train all health professionals in implicit bias, support doctors and med