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Community Voices: Food insecurity versus nutrition insecurity

Wendy Wesley

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Where health is concerned, the kinds of foods, rather than their calories, brought into a community matter greatly.

Food and nutrition may spark similar images in your mind, but they can be the difference between a thriving community and one that merely exists.

I call the problem in St. Petersburg “nutrition insecurity” because “food insecurity” is all too often met with junk calories.

These junk calories are highly processed foods that can be warehoused for years but do not make a community healthier and, actually, create and exacerbate chronic diseases of diabetes, cardiac disease and renal failure.

“Nutrition insecurity,” on the other hand, is meeting the nutrition needs of our city with unprocessed fresh produce, meats and dairy.

I recently served as a panelist for Churches United for Healthy Congregations and I brought up the concept of “food insecurity” vs. “nutrition insecurity.” The idea resonated with the members who agreed that loading a community with processed calories often from dollar stores and USDA food boxes only treats hunger.

When I share this concept with healthcare professionals, public health experts, gardeners, nonprofit executives, funders and local policy makers, the distinction is widely accepted.

Recently, our city council unanimously passed ordinance 448-H in its first reading, which allows St. Petersburg residents to sell what they grow in their home gardens. This will not only will put more nutrition into our city but provide many new economic opportunities for families in financial trouble due to Covid-19.

Additionally, the ordinance reduced permit fees for hosting sales, allowed garden-related structures to be built and allowed residents to sell their produce on vacant non-residential property. All great things for gardeners and eaters alike.

Activists from the Suncoast Sierra Club, the Youth Farm at Enoch Davis plus several private citizens spoke out, sent emails and wrote letters in support of it.

To work toward improving nutrition insecurity in St. Petersburg, a group of concerned citizens and I have formed a new coalition called “Nutrition Equity St. Pete” where we will take one nutrition-related issue at a time and provide education, build support and create opportunities for activism.

Now that 448-H has passed, our next efforts will go toward creating more awareness and publicity for small St. Petersburg businesses like produce stands and groceries that accept double SNAP Fresh From Florida benefits.

There will be many opportunities to write to our policy makers, speak in public forums, provide education about the issue to organizations and assist in local gardening efforts.

We hope that you will join us in this endeavor.

 

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