Finding Nutrition in a “Food Desert”: A Difficult Proposition

ImageLast week, Professor Henstenburg discussed why food security is a growing concern that needs to be addressed. Henstenburg, a member of La Salle University’s Nursing and Health Sciences Faculty, has spent most of her academic career raising awareness about food-related issues. She plays a central role in several of La Salle’s nutritional programs, including the Didactic Program in Nutrition at La Salle and La Salle’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics. She is currently working on her doctorate in Health Policy at the University of the Sciences.

Henstenburg said that there two major problems that prevent poorer consumers from getting adequate nutrition: “food deserts” and a lack of access to financial aid. “Food deserts”, according to Henstenburg, are neighborhoods that lack a big grocery store.Typically, residents of these neighborhoods rely on corner stores to meet their nutritional needs. The problem with that is that many of those stores have a limited selection of healthy eating options. She also said that the neighborhood surrounding La Salle was once a food desert, but that things have improved since Fresh Grocer opened.

But the problem runs deeper than just access to food. Henstenburg says that the problem is also tied to economics. Poor people are unable to buy healthy food simply because they don’t have enough money to do so. The small amount of aid that is provided by SNAP, coupled with an inadequate federal minimum wage, perpetuates nutritional suffering in poorer communities. Henstenburg proposed that poor people would eat healthier if they received more SNAP benefits, and if the minimum wage was raised. In order for this to happen, she said that people needed to combat the various stigmas that are associated with receiving government aid to buy food. 

She presented a bold set of proposals that won’t be easy to enact. But they are worthwhile efforts to push for.

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