Wisconsin is an industrial city centered in the midwest. The winters are long and the unemployment rate is dangerously high. Seattle, Washington is a large urban landscape located in the Pacific Northwest with a growing economy. The nearby landscape is densely biodiverse and the weather is moderate. How do the differences in economy and geographic location affect the availability to nutritious food in these areas? Food insecurity can be defined as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food” (Gundersen). In the United States, geographic location is a main contributor to food desserts and other forms of food insecurity. In my paper, my goal is to highlight the differences in obesity rates, income, and access to nutritious food in these two drastically different regions . Most importantly I will highlight possible solutions to these problems as well.
The midwestern region of the United States is classified by its intensely cold winters and mildly hot summers. Additionally, many cities within this region struggle with low employment and high poverty rates. According to the article, Poverty and Food Security in Milwaukee County (Curtis), the authors’ state that “In Milwaukee County, the estimated poverty rate during the 5-year span of 2008-2012 was 20.9%, an increase from 2000 when the county poverty rate was 15.3%.” (Curtis). As a result of this high poverty rate many in the region struggle to “have enough safe and nutritious food for an active healthy life…” (Curtis). The cold climate and short growing season make it even harder for Milwaukee residents to get fresh, locally grown foods. In Milwaukee county the food insecurity rate is 21.8%. Figure 1 depicts Milwaukee’s food insecurity rate compared to other districts in Wisconsin. The majority of people in these poverty stricken areas are minorities. Since minorities in this area don’t have access to fresh nutritional foods, their health is at risk. According to a study done by The Wisconsin Division of Public Health, 37% of school children in The Milwaukee Public School System are considered overweight or obese (Cash).
Food Insecurity Rate in Wisconsin by District (Curtis) Milwaukee resident stated in a 2018 interview “”Look at the area that we live in…There’s fast food, a lot of fatty things. But you also have to understand that we can’t afford [healthy food],”” (Cash). All in all, Milwaukee’s geographic and economic status are issues that impact its citizen’s health and food security.
Another city thats citizen’s health is impacted by its location and economic status is Seattle,Washington. Seattle’s rainy climate and combination of mountainous landscapes and oceans provide for a lot of different year-round crop growth. According to the city of Seattle’s government website, the city’s climate is “cool and wet in the spring and fall, and usually above freezing in the winter.”(Seattle Government). With encouragement from local governments, there are many urban gardens and food farms occupying the city. Easy access to planting has allowed Seattle residents to be more secure with their food options. Additionally, between 2015 and 2016 the Seattle-Tacoma area reported to have a 9.6% poverty rate, which dropped from the previous post-recision high of 14.1% (Eckart). Only about 11% of Seattle locals have reported food insecurity (Pulkkinen). Figure 2 depicts the average food insecurity rates in the U.S., Oregon, California, and Washington, and Washington has by far the lowest insecurity rate. As result of these two benefits, Seattle has the third lowest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17 in America (State Briefs). These statistics showcase Seattle’s location and economic status effects on food insecurity and health.
Average Food Insecurity Rates of The West Coast (Pulkkinen)
The problem of disproportionate food insecurity within the United States is a huge issue. Socially, this issue warrants concern. Environmental justice is described as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (Houston) . Milwaukee’s inclining poverty rate shouldn’t be a contributor to wether or not its residents should have access to nutritional foods. The outcome of not paying attention to this problem is inclining obesity rates and health problems nationwide. According to an article by UW Milwaukee “The obesity rate in the city of Milwaukee has risen about eight percentage points in the last four years, which is much more than the national average, state average, and the increase at the county level as well” (Nowakowski). Figure 3 shows the increasing obesity rates in Milwaukee from 1990-2016. Without policy the results could be detrimental to the overall human health and mainly minorities in not just Milwaukee, but similar urban areas. There are also numerous environmental consequences of food insecurity.
Adult obesity in WI 1990-2016
(Nowakowski) of locally grown foods and reliance on non-organic farming is damaging our Earth. Non organic farming uses fertilizers loaded with nutrients. When these nutrients get washed into bodies of water they cause algal blooms. These blooms eventually die/decompose which restricts oxygen in the body of water, causing more death to organisms such as fish. Also, since the food in these areas aren’t locally grown they have to travel many miles to get there, increasing overall carbon pollution. If we don’t take food insecurity seriously, people in The United States will have increasing health risks. Also, minorities will be effected most by food insecurity, and continue being suppressed by environmental inequality. Lastly, our environment will continue to suffer due to waste runoff from agriculture and long travel distances to get food in these areas.
There are numerous possible solutions regarding the unevenness of food security in America. Seattle is a huge template to what many other urban areas should strive for. Local governments in Milwaukee could start implementing urban gardens in the city. These gardens will allow access to healthy local foods within walking distance for people in city areas. These gardens have proven to work with improving food security in Seattle and can in other cities as well. The issue regarding geographic location can be solved as well. New technology is being tested with “deep winter” greenhouses (Figure 4).
A deep winter greenhouse
(Gunderson) from MPR news states that these greenhouses can be started up without a huge cost. These winter greenhouses are able to grow most fruits and vegetables that aren’t achievable in cold climates by “mixing technology and old school ingenuity to create an energy efficient winter farm”. (Gunderson) Help and start up from local governments with ideas like deep winter greenhouses and urban farms can aid in the reduction of food insecurity in Milwaukee and other urban areas throughout the United States.
All in all, food insecurity is a huge issue in The United States. Many areas are more impacted by the dangerous effects of food insecurity than others. There are multiple reasons for this disproportion of food security between states, including geographic location and economic status. This is of huge concern due to the health risks, environmental injustice, and increased damages to our planet revolving around food insecurity and those who don’t have access to nutritional foods. Solutions vary and are possible with action from local governments, urban gardening, and new technology.