In an attempt to bring things closer to home, I have analyzed how food impacts students and how they perceive food. In this particular case study, many of the students shared some of the concerns that we have all commonly said or heard of. Many of the students had expressed a deep concern in that the food on campus was rather expensive especially the healthier options so they instead opted for things like hamburgers. In some instances, it was less of an economic concern but rather a “why waste my meal plan on something I won’t like”. Some students are used to a way of living or eating and for them it may not be a natural part of their dieting to actually use vegetables or fruits.
This particular case study was conducted in an area where the students where in a “food desert”. As defined by the USDA a food desert is anywhere that is urban but 33% of its residents do not have access to nutritional food within a one mile radius(Dhillon, et al., 2019). As students we all know the impact even a five minute break can have. When the students are at least a 4 mile drive it becomes more of a hassle. It is especially hard for students who cannot afford a car and depend on public transportation it is time consumed that they feel they could’ve spent studying. In considering healthier option such as a Farmer’s Market it is seen that students don’t have the time to go to these areas where there is healthy food. Most people who go to Farmer’s Markets typically are there more so as an entertainment where they can walk, shop, and spend their leisure time.
In Philadelphia, there is an initiative in the right direction to create more Farmer’s Market at low-income neighborhoods. Not only is there the convenience of being located where people can walk or bike to but they are equipping vendors to be able to have customers use things like Philly Bucks or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs (Young et al., 2011). What was found was that more people of color due to proximity and affordability were using these assistance programs to be able to access healthy food.
For students around colleges or universities like Cal Poly Pomona there are vast options that can aid in closing the gaps that people of color have when it comes to food insecurity. When considering the topic of minorities we do not typically consider students as a major group. This is interesting as students can fall under more economic stress than they may have experienced before and can be of a minority group. There are options in areas like Mt. Sac College, La Verne, Brea, Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont and more.
Having this food security in this crucial stage where students become autonomous in all regards even their diets sets them up for their future. Now it is up to us to see how we can spread awareness of food nutrition and figuring out alternatives that are affordable and delicious.
Young, Candace R, Aquilante, Jennifer L, Solomon, Sara, Colby, Lisa, Kawinzi, Mukethe A, Uy, Nicky, & Mallya, Giridhar. (2013). Improving Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Low-Income Customers at Farmers Markets: Philly Food Bucks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2011. Preventing Chronic Disease, 10, E166–E166. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.120356
Dhillon, Jaapna, Diaz Rios, L. Karina, Aldaz, Kaitlyn, De La Cruz, Natalie, Vu, Emily, Asad Asghar, Syed, Kuse, Quintin, & Ortiz, Rudy. (2019). We Don’t Have a Lot of Healthy Options: Food Environment Perceptions of First-Year, Minority College Students Attending a Food Desert Campus. Nutrients, 11(4), 816. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040816
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To further expand on this post, another form of food production that some urban communities have implemented in an attempt to increase the amount of healthy and nutritious food is the introduction of community supported agriculture. Community supported agriculture is a partnership between food producers and a group of consumers that share the risks and responsibilities associated with the production of food. The main purpose of community supported agriculture programs is to produce and provide a source of food using environmentally, socially, economically, and nutritionally sustainable farming methods.
In a community supported agriculture program, members receive a percentage of the farm’s produce with the overall purpose of the program to create an alternative food distribution system that is not dependent on traditional markets to provide consumers with access to healthy food and develop a relationship and direct contact with farmers. Regarding the financial aspects, there are a number of positive reasons for farmers to participate in a community supported agriculture program. Community supported agriculture farming ensures that farmers will have access to safe and trusted markets and the farmers are supported financially for an entire growing season by a group of consumers that receive fresh food every week. Prior to the start of the growing season, community supported agriculture members purchase a share before the start of the growing season, and upfront payments at the beginning of the season ensures financial stability for the farmer. By obtaining payments directly from consumers before the start of the growing season, farmers that participate in a community supported agriculture programs are able to carry lower financial debts which helps them to recover from possible low crop yields due to weather uncertainties.
Aside from the economic benefits, the environmental factors involved in the participation in a community supported agricultural program drives farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural management practices. These practices include maintaining biodiversity levels, adopting traditional farming practices, reducing the number of miles between consumers and food, and increasing consumption of seasonal produce. As a result, participation in a community supported agricultural program helps to promote healthy diets and consumption habits and to educate consumers on the processes involved in food production. Also, community supported agricultural programs promotes the consumption of high quality fresh and seasonal produce and thus encourages consumers to learn how to store or preserve food for the harsh winter months.
Another urban agriculture technique that some urban communities have begun to incorporate is the usage of vertical farming. Vertical farming in the process of growing crops in vertically stacked layers and often incorporates soilless farming methods such as aeroponics and aquaponics with state of the art climate control technology. Some common structures that are used to house vertical farming operations include buildings, shipping containers, and tunnels. The main advantage of using vertical farming techniques and technologies is the increase in crop yield that comes with a smaller area of land while at the same time providing new jobs in the engineering, biochemistry, biotechnology, and construction industries. In terms of the economic advantages, vertical farming allows farmers to reduce the amount of pesticides used to protect the crops from pests since the crops are grown indoors and thus crop production can occur during all times of the year through protection from extreme weather conditions. The biggest challenge associated with vertical farming is the high startup costs if the land is purchased in the central business district of a city.