Prepared by Eric Clay, Senior Community Impact Officer, Health
Decades of public and private disinvestment have left low-income neighborhoods, disproportionately comprised of Black and Brown residents, to contend with abandoned supermarkets and an overabundance of fast food and convenience stores. As we listen and learn from community partners who echo the needs of those most impacted by food injustice, we recognize the importance of language. While these communities are often referred to as food deserts, food justice activist, Karen Washington, recommends “food apartheid” as a more accurate term. Desert is defined as a desolate or forbidding area and fails to focus on the assets and strengths that exist in every community, whereas food apartheid addresses root causes and considers the whole food system, along with race, geography, faith, and economics.
What does this mean for communities? According to the CDC, lack of access to fresh food is associated with lower diet quality and increased risk of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes. The USDA reports that 23% of Richmond has limited access to fresh, affordable foods. Data also show alarming racial disparities, with an adult obesity rate of 24% among White residents and 37% among Black residents. Income variation presents an even greater disparity, with an obesity rate of 40% for individuals making less than $35,000 annually, as compared to a 19% obesity rate for those with incomes greater than $75,000.
Further compounding the issue is the impending end to boosted payments enacted during the pandemic under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In anticipation of the adverse effect on under-resourced communities, particularly older adults, the Foundation is reaching out to both new and existing organizational partners to understand the impact. This includes South Richmond Adult Day Care Center, which provides clients with healthy meals and snacks that meet requirements for specific medical conditions, as well as the new East End Older Adults Nutrition Collaborative, which was organized to increase access to affordable fresh foods, as well as education on health eating, for senior communities. As more information becomes available, we will be happy to share what we have learned and possible funding opportunities as they arise.
How we have responded
Since 2018, the Community Foundation has made 24 discretionary grants totaling $565,000 to increase access to fresh, nutritious, and affordable foods for under-resourced individuals and families. This support helped to expand services in Henrico and Chesterfield Counties and enabled partners to provide more culturally appropriate foods.
Highlights of the impactful work of our community partners
- Supported the work of Feedmore, which partnered with Waymakers Foundation and Goya Foods, Inc. (the largest Hispanic-owned food company and source of Latin foods in the United States), to better respond to the quality and dietary needs of Hispanic and Latino/a communities. More than 800,000 pounds of culturally appropriate foods were distributed.
- Supported the work of Shalom Farms to ensure distribution of fresh produce at local food pantries, health clinics, and low-income housing communities in Richmond’s East End, which is populated by 90% Black residents and has a poverty rate that ranges from 41% to 72%.
- Supported the Society of St. Andrew gleaning network, which provided 111,973 pounds of food to 17 feeding agencies in the greater Richmond area.
- Supported the advocacy efforts of Greater Richmond Fit4Kids, focused on improving health and nutrition practices in local school districts.
- From 2018 to 2021, our partners distributed more than 1.5 million pounds of food to 85,292 clients.
How can you support food justice?