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Food insecurity in Baltimore: A growing epidemic

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Loyola University Maryland

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Food insecurity in Baltimore: A growing epidemic

Hungry for change

Maggie Lewis

12.2.17

Loyola’s location in Baltimore City and the school’s commitment to community and service has led to many opportunities to serve and learn about injustice in our city. Specifically, our location within the York Road Corridor has allowed for opportunities to explore the institutional causes of poverty and the far reaching effects of housing discrimination.

Baltimore’s residential real estate practices, such as restrictive covenants, redlining, blockbusting, and predatory lending all contributed to “hyper-exploitation in African American communities; gross profiteering for some; and neighborhood dilapidation and deterioration for black communities”. These racially-driven displacement practices, including gentrification, have led to stark segregation within Baltimore City.

A major repercussion of these policies, and part of the cycle that withholds power from black communities, is food access and security. A lack of access to affordable and healthy food is an issue of equity and justice and is hurting low-income communities of color across the country.

Baltimore is not an exception to this rule. Access to healthy food "is a key determinant of health. Lack of easy access to healthy foods has a close and complex relationship with nutrition knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy; food security and household income; and environmental policies and systemic inequities. These factors combine to affect the diets, and in turn the health, of low-income people.”

A food desert in Baltimore City is defined as:
- An area where the distance to a supermarket or supermarket alternative is more than ¼ mile
- The median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level
- Over 30% of households have no vehicle available
-The average Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI) score for all food stores is low

Certain neighborhoods within the York Road Corridor are food deserts. According to a report done by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, “Thirty-four percent of African Americans live in food deserts, compared to only eight percent of white residents. Children are also disproportionately affected, with thirty percent of Baltimore City’s school-aged children living in food deserts.” The map below shows the areas in Baltimore that are in food deserts and where fresh food is available. One in four Baltimore residents live in a food desert.


Looking ahead, we must take action to help combat food deserts and the cycle of injustice that low-income communities of color are disproportionately burdened with. Loyola’s Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ) merged with the York Road Initiative last fall in an effort to unite against these issues.

Since their union, the Fresh Crate program has started in an effort to bring produce from Loyola's campus to convenience stores along the York Road Corridor. Additionally, CCSJ has service opportunities for students interested in food access, such as Soul Kitchen and Far Stand.

Outside of CCSJ, the program Gather Baltimore is a program that "collects unsold surplus vegetables, fruit and more that would otherwise be thrown away from markets, farms and wholesalers for redistribution to the Baltimore community, directly and through community partners, such as food pantries, shelters, community organizations". Gather Baltimore aims to eliminate food waste and resolve food insecurity by making produce available to financially challenged families in communities where fresh, healthy food is not readily accessible.