“Food insecurity” is a term defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that indicates that the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food, is limited or uncertain for a household. Food insecurity is a nationwide epidemic that, most of the time, the general public are completely oblivious to.

Nikki D'Ambrosio

Last summer, I interned at a non-profit in my hometown called New Roots. New Roots fights for fresh food access within the Kentuckiana area and beyond through farm fresh food markets called Fresh Stop Markets and food justice initiatives. Through this internship, I learned about areas within the city called "food deserts"–an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. In lower income areas of the city, many people had no access to fresh food since all of their local grocery stores were being shut down by the city. This internship opened my eyes up to the problems in Kentucky but it wasn't until six months later that I realized the scope of food insecurity no matter where you go. 

I am now living in Baltimore, Maryland–a city which reminds me a lot of Louisville. This semester, I had the opportunity to attend an event called the Labs@LightCity which was a campaign apart of Light City Baltimore that brought together people and created a space to talk about issues and initiatives ranging on topics from food to health to education. If you guessed right, I went to the FoodLab. 

Nikki D'Ambrosio

While I was at the FoodLab, I was able to hear Jasina Wise, the Food Access and Nutrition Manager at the Baltimore City Health Department, Office of Chronic Disease Prevention, speak about this topic of food deserts vs. healthy food priority areas. Food deserts are now referred to as food priority areas which brings a slightly more positive connotation to the concept. Just because the name changed, doesn't mean the problem got any better. 

The city of Baltimore has implemented a few initiatives to combat the issue of food access within the city such as: Baltimarket, a suite of community-based food access and food justice programs through the Baltimore City Health Department. Current Baltimarket programs include the Virtual Supermarket Program, the Healthy Stores Program, and the Neighborhood Food Advocates Initiative. These initiatives are great steps towards improving food insecurity in the Baltimore area but they left me wanting more. 

How can I help combat this issue?

After some research and talking to food justice leaders, like Karyn Moskowitz from New Roots, I learned that no matter who you are, there are steps you can take to help your community. 

1. Understand the "whys" and "hows"

Most people take for granted being able to choose between multiple grocery stores in their area (TJ's or Whole Foods?) let alone just having a grocery store near them. Learn about why these things in our communities are happening. The more you understand something, the better you'll be able to help.

2. Volunteer

You can volunteer through organizations like Maryland Hunger Solutions which work more with federal nutrition programs. There are also volunteer opportunities at the City of Baltimore's Baltimarket which you can find out more about here. No matter where you are, there will always be places that can use your help.

3. Attend Food Justice workshops (and bring friends!)

This is the ultimate way to truly understand what your efforts can do. Food Justice/Policy workshops help you understand all things food justice so that you can begin making an impact whether it be big or small. This is also another way to meet likeminded, passionate people, and new friends are always a good thing.

Nikki D'Ambrosio

Food insecurity is a broad topic that affects many more people than you'd imagine. I wish I had all of the answers on how to magically solve it, but the more people that are aware of it, the better. Here's to not taking the little things for granted. Activism is RAD(ish), people!