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Problem

Limited access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally-desirable food has disproportionate negative effects on minority communities. 39.4 million, or 12.8%, of the US population lives in low-access, low-income food deserts. For instance, low-income neighborhoods are 3 times less likely to have supermarkets than higher-income neighborhoods. In these food deserts, supermarkets and grocery stores located in minority and lower-income areas also tend to provide fast food or highly-processed food.

Therefore, the lack of nutritional food can also lead to obesity, a nationwide epidemic that impacted 42.4% of American adults in 2017-2018. Around “two thirds of Blacks and Hispanics currently aged 2 to 19 are projected to be obese by the age of 35, compared to the national average of 57%.” Diabetes also affects 12.5% of Hispanics, 11.7% of non-Hispanic Blacks, 14.7% of American Indians/Alaskan Natives — all higher than the 7.5% prevalence found in non-Hispanic whites. Food insecurity and its impact on subsequent chronic health conditions are major burdens that jeopardize the quality of life for many BIPOC individuals, their communities, their employers, and the healthcare system at large, intertwining with and amplifying other forms of systemic racism. It's imperative to acknowledge that disparities in our food system originate from inequitable and discriminatory policies that have caused poverty, gentrification, lack of access to quality land, and a wealth imbalance for BIPOC. Read an introduction to "food justice' here.

Key Terms


Solutions

1. Novel Supply Chain Methods

Revolutionizing the supply chain that creates affordable and nutritious food could lead to millions of healthier, food-secure BIPOC individuals. For a local approach, community gardens located at schools, community centers, backyard lots, and more have been vital to providing access to healthy, fresh-grown food for BIPOC communities. Combining community gardens with the below existing tech solutions can further resolve gaps in food access.

Existing Start-ups

What needs to be done?

Cheaper Indoor Farming: Indoor farming methods are still costly due to electricity, HVAC, and water irrigation systems. These economics make it difficult for vertically-farmed produce to be affordable for lower-income individuals.

Farming for cheaper produce: Fast crops, such as corn and wheat, are radically cheaper than fruits and vegetables due to a history of US government subsidies and less-intensive growing requirements. Agtech innovation could radically improve efficiency and cut costs of growing produce, such as lowering water usage and automating harvesting methods (often labor-intensive).

Conversion of urban lots into fertile and safe urban and community farms: Social contamination and brownfields pose health risks for urban agriculture, which makes it dangerous to grow produce and other crops. Water availability and variable changes in city atmospheric and climate conditions are also challenges that impact the viability and scalability of urban farming.