A reflection on the past week's discussion by Ananya Benegal.  

This week in ghU we discussed food insecurity and community gardens. 

We began by familiarizing ourselves with the terminology.  Food insecurity, we learned, is the lack of reliable access to affordable and nutritious foods; regions that face this problem are called food deserts.  ghU explained that there is much more to food insecurity than simply not getting enough food.  There are several components to why an individual or a region may not be getting the nutrition they need, and these can work on a large scale, systematic level. 

We also explored the explored food insecurity in varying scopes, from global to local.  Though it does not necessarily take into account each component, undernutrition is the most common measure of global food insecurity.  In the US, one way to generally quantify the data is by how far one has to travel to get to a supermarket. 

Food insecurity is a large issue in our very own community of St. Louis.  For example, in the Normandy School District, there are only two discount grocery stores.  Many people have to travel well over a mile to have access to fresh food.

Community gardens are a great way to help alleviate some of these problems.  Not only have community gardens been shown to reduce food insecurity, they have been linked to other benefits, such as fostering stronger family relationships and encouraging a greater knowledge of balanced diets in children and teenagers.

It was brought up in discussion that there are also mental health benefits associated with gardening in general.  Additionally, we discussed food insecurity in the context of UDHA and Naigobiya. For example, the source of protein in diet often comes from livestock.  However, in the region, it is common to hold on to livestock as a symbol of status, so the main source of protein is removed from the diet.  How climate might affect food security and how that might change based on the seasons of the year was mentioned brought up as well. 

We had the privilege of hearing from Becky, a Healthy Community Coordinator at Beyond Housing, an organization with whom we have recently begun a partnership.  She talked about the 24:1 Initiative, a group of 24 municipalities within the Normandy School District united by a common vision of “Strong Communities, Engaged Families, and Successful Children”.  Becky mentioned how all aspects of one’s life impact health, but in particular stressed the importance of obesity reduction.  Beyond Housing has several ongoing programs and projects to combat obesity in the community.  For example, this coming Saturday, October 10, they are holding a tour to teach community members how to buy healthy foods on a budget.  They also host cooking classes that emphasize nutrition.

Overall, it was amazing for us to see a concrete example of the concepts we discussed in ghU being applied right here in St. Louis.  We truly appreciate Becky coming to speak to us tonight.  We are thrilled to be working with Beyond Housing and cannot wait to learn more!