November 19, 2013
Apparently I live in a “food desert”. This is news to me; what does that even mean? While scanning through the TV channels after school today a PBS news hour report came on and I only stopped because my town in Mississippi was mentioned. I never thought of myself as obese or suffering from malnutrition, but according to the news anchor this was true. I pretty much look like everyone else in my school and town. While some are thinner or larger, I don’t really stand out. I eat a pop tart for breakfast, whatever the cafeteria provides at lunch, a gas station snack after school, and something microwavable for dinner. Never once have I thought twice about the way I eat or how it could be helping or harming me. I’ve lived my entire life in this town and I don’t know anything else. The news anchor stated that many in my town are not ingesting the right kinds of food that enable my body to function properly. This frightens me because what options do I have. I’m in the third grade, can’t drive, and have no money!
I started thinking more about food access and availability and how I eat. I rarely plan out what I eat because on a day to day basis and I take what I can get. Is there really anything wrong with getting food at a convenience store, McDonald’s, or gas station? When these are the only places that I have access to how do I change my eating habits. There are no farms where I live that grow anything but commodity crops that are shipped out of state and sold. Neither my mother nor my school taught me how to cook, or what to eat. Even if I were to try to change what I eat I would have to go to extreme ends, walking for miles or planting my own garden to succeed. I can’t help but feel bad for myself, and wonder, why? What could I have been like given proper nutrition and health education. Is there any hope for my town? While it’s easy to be pessimistic about my health and my future Mrs. Obama’s efforts to eliminate food deserts in the United States encourages me and brings me hope. While I can’t count on a healthy grocery store opening up down the block anytime soon, at least now I know that our first lady prioritizes health and that organizations are working to make sure one’s zip code does not define access to nutritious food. Hey, maybe I’ll try to plant some vegetables next spring, or ask mom to help me save up gas money to make a trip to the grocery store. While it makes me sad that I’ve been living my life largely unaware of my unhealthy and potentially deadly eating habits, at least the program opened my eyes to the current inhabitance in a food desert.