A Guest Voice by Camille McMannus, intern at Community Commons.
Living in Columbia, Missouri, I’ve never thought much about access to food because I’ve always been able to get food whenever I want. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone in my city or across the nation. According to United States Department of Agriculture study, about 14.3 percent of families in the US were food insecure at some point in 2013. The population living in poverty has a much more difficult time accessing food, let alone healthy and nutritious food.
One reason it’s difficult for people who are living on a low income to have healthy food is that it’s not always easy to get. Fresh items are not often found in corner convenience stores and the few foods that are healthy may cost more than the unhealthy options. Advocating for community policies, like low-cost incentives for corner stores to stock more fresh foods, are one way to bring healthy food into neighborhoods.
Another way to improve healthy food accessibility is through local food drives. At my school, Rock Bridge High School, we have a constantly running food drive where students can drop off food at any time. Some of the items left in the barrel, while appreciated by the food pantry, are not very healthy. Many food banks across the nation have started to ban unhealthy foods like candy and sodas in order to improve health. To address this, my school can advertise the importance of healthy food donations and see if local farmers or supermarkets that have direct access to healthy food can donate as well.
I can also help quality food access by raising awareness of the importance of healthy school food. In my high school of 1,884, 52 percent of the students receive free or reduced-priced lunch. Although students have the opportunity to receive food at school and through other programs like SNAP, there is no way of insuring that the food they actually eat is healthy. Letting the administration know what healthy foods students will actually choose to eat is a start.
As a student, I want to promote awareness of health food access with my peers so we can work toward a better future. We have a voice and it is calling for change.