Commentary By Michael Jacobson: Solving Communities' Food Problems | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Commentary By Michael Jacobson: Solving Communities' Food Problems

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There are a number of farmers markets in D.C., but commentator Michael Jacobson says there are parts of the city that lack adequate access to healthy, nutritious food.
Rebecca Sheir
There are a number of farmers markets in D.C., but commentator Michael Jacobson says there are parts of the city that lack adequate access to healthy, nutritious food.

I've been called many things over the years, but "food police" seems to be a name that sticks.

I think of myself as more of a "food detective," exposing the calorie and fat count in movie-theater popcorn and restaurant food, say. But despite everything my colleagues at the CSPI and I have accomplished over the last 40 years, we remain acutely aware of a true food crime right here in Washington, D.C.: the continued prevalence of hunger and inadequate access to healthy, nutritious food.

Late last month, the national organization Feeding America released its "Map the Meal Gap" study, which found that more than 400,000 people living in the D.C. metropolitan area are considered "food insecure." Unfortunate, but not surprising, the District's wards 7 and 8, southeast of the Anacostia River, have both the city's highest obesity rates and also the largest "food deserts" in the city, with only four grocery stores in Ward 7 and three in Ward 8. In stark comparison, my ward, Ward 3, has 11 full-service stores to service half as many people.

While I have spent most of my career committed to improving nutrition and food safety, I know that is only part of the story. The fact that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are so hard to find in some neighborhoods almost ensures that diets will be typically too high in fatty meat, white flour, sugar and salt. That kind of diet is killing us, slowly.

That is why CSPI has launched a major initiative aimed at both celebrating healthy, delicious food, but also challenging the way we think about what's on our plates. We're calling it "Food Day".

Our goal on Food Day, Oct. 24, is to have thousands of events all over the country, including in the District, that are designed to solve local communities' food problems.

In the District, I hope that some Food Day activities will focus on ending food deserts and increasing access to healthy foods. That means making sure that policymakers do everything they can to plant grocery stores, farmers markets and urban gardens in underserved neighborhoods.

In a country and city with so much abundance and affluence, it's a crime that so many in our nation's capital don't know where there next healthy meal is coming from.

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