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Food Deserts: How People in Columbus, Georgia Are Addressing Food Insecurity

More than half of the people in Columbus, Georgia live in food deserts, which is why local communities and organizations are stepping up to take action. Here’s how community leaders and organizations plan to tackle Columbus’ food insecurity using creative solutions.

  1. Multiple factors, such as lack of transportation and the current pandemic are contributing to the food desert condition in Columbus. (more…)
  1. Due to a lack of accessibility to healthy food,  health conditions like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are spiking in the region. (more…)
  1. Different community leaders and organizations in Columbus are taking initiative to make healthy food more accessible in their communities. (more…)

Background Information: What are Food Deserts?

Full Report: Here’s Who Is Helping Columbus Residents in the Food Desert

Factors that contribute to Columbus’ food deserts

There are a couple of factors that are contributing to the inaccessibility of healthy food in Columbus. Here’s what you need to know about them: 

Lack of Transportation

  • Communities in food deserts typically do not have enough resources to afford transportation to reach stores that provide healthy and fresh foods, or the transportation system doesn’t exist at all.
  • Other folks in the community may be physically incapable of traveling long distances, most commonly due to age and health conditions.
  • Food insecurity is worsened by a lack of public transportation such as buses or trains. People struggle to acquire fresh food if there is no available bus line that can take them to places where fresh and healthy food is available.

Covid 19 Pandemic

  • Due to the current Covid 19 pandemic, areas considered food deserted areas are increasing. Many people have lost their jobs and sources of income, which increases the inaccessibility and unaffordability of healthy foods for people living in food deserts.
  • In late 2020, food insecurity in Columbus increased greatly as a result of the pandemic. People requiring food assistance from Feeding the Valley food bank increased by around 53% in Muscogee County communities, with 40% of them being new individuals seeking support.

Food deserts increase the rates of various health conditions

People who live in food deserts are more at risk for different health conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Here’s how the inaccessibility of healthy food affects the health of the community. 

  • In Muscogee County, Ischemic heart and vascular disease are the leading causes of mortality among those aged 35 and above. These diseases are commonly triggered by a high cholesterol diet that can lead to obesity. A lack of access to healthy foods likely contributes to high rates of these diseases.
  • Columbus has higher rates of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and even cancer compared to other areas. These cases are triggered by a lack of access to nutritious food. Instead, convenience stores in gasoline stations, which often sell canned goods and chips high in salt and fat content, are the most accessible type of stores for people living in food deserts.

Community leaders and organizations’ initiatives to address food inaccessibility in Columbus, GA

Different community leaders and organizations in Columbus are initiating programs to address the worsening food insecurity in their communities. Here are some examples of their creative programs.

  • Non-profit organizations like The Food Mill are reaching out their hands to address the issue of food insecurity in Columbus. The non-profit organization aims to break down barriers to food access by giving healthy, freshly produced food to communities while supporting local farmers.
  • Mobile vehicles that will serve as clinics, markets, and other recreational activities are being launched by the city government of Columbus, spearheaded by Mayor Skip Henderson.
  • Feeding the Valley food bank has increased its food distribution program sites by innovating and expanding through mobile food pantries.

Sources: 

“Here’s Who Is Helping Columbus Residents in the Food Desert.” U.S. News, February 19, 2022

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/georgia/articles/2022-02-19/heres-who-is-helping-columbus-residents-in-the-food-desert

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