The average person makes 250 food decisions every day. For many, the luxury of choice plays a role in these decisions. For Latino families living in food deserts - communities with no access to nutritious and affordable meals - there is no choice. And while the push for equal access to healthy ingredients is gaining momentum in America, thanks largely to Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, food insecurity remains a vital and urgent issue for Latinos. Along with African Americans, they are the people most commonly found in food deserts.
Here is a look at the root causes of the problem and what one Latino community is doing to solve them.
THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
For many, this is the definition of America.
It’s the story we’ve been told our entire lives: in movies, in school, at the dinner table. Everywhere we look, we see images of an American dream that tells us that food is plentiful, children are always fed, and no one ever goes hungry. Sadly, it’s a dream that is out of reach for a growing number of Latinos in the United States.
That’s because America, despite being one of the world’s richest countries, is in the midst of a massive food crisis. Nearly a quarter of Americans say that they have trouble putting food on the table, and it’s estimated that 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in areas with little to no access to healthy meals. These places are so ubiquitous that they have spawned their own term, food deserts, and they strike our Latino populations particularly hard.
According to the National Council of La Raza, Latino children are America’s hungriest, representing a shocking 40 percent of the roughly 1 million children living in hunger. These children are also the unhealthiest; research suggests that almost two-fifths of Latino children are overweight or obese.
Pair this with a study that found Hispanic neighborhoods have one-third the number of supermarkets as non-Hispanic neighborhoods, and it becomes clear that Latinos are engaged in an all-out food war. The prize is mental and physical health; the stakes are the social, educational, and economic futures of an entire culture.