Food Injustice & Violence

BSHC Violence Prevention Coordinator, Susan Young, assists two previously homeless clients to find healthy, affordable food.

After the recent shooting in Newtown, CT and The Boston Globe’s incredible series 68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope profiling the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, we at Food in the ‘Hood have been thinking about the interelationships between healthy food access, economic development, and violence prevention.  Felicity Lawrence of the UK-based Guardian wrote recently about the correlations between nutrition and agressive behavior.  “The pandemic of violence in western societies may be related to what we eat or fail to eat.  Junk food may not only be making us sick, but mad and bad too.”

Join us as we explore this issue and the broader context of food and violence in Bowdoin-Geneva.

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From a nutrition science perspective, studies have shown a strong correlation between Omega-3 deficiency and increased violent tendencies.  Over the last several decades, American dietary patterns have changed significantly with a replacement of these healthy fats with more saturated (animal-based) fats – which not only contribute to obesity, but also are correlated with mental health issues.

Even beyond this, however, it’s easy to contemplate the impact of structural injustices in the food system and their effects on the prevalence of unemployment, crime, business success, and of course, health disparities.  The impact of living in a neighborhood plagued by violence on health outcomes –  both physical and psychological – is well-documented.  The converse of this relationship is also true: discrepancies in health outcomes may also be causes of increased community violence.

This is especially true when it comes to food access.  All too often, those who can afford to, drive across town to the high-end grocery stores to purchase organic vegetables and other gourmet treats, while the only options for many of Boston’s poorest inhabitants are corner stores specializing in ultra-processed goods loaded with sugar, salt, and chemical preservatives. With obesity and diabetes rates soaring in these populations, the ramifications upon community health and economic success are equally apparent.  Challenged by illness, it becomes difficult for individuals to get and maintain solid employment, ever reinforcing the cycle of poverty – and by extension, the persistence of violent crime.

In a recent article in the opinion section of The Boston Globe responding to the 68 Blocks series, Lawrence Harmon writes “Fresh food shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of the economic elite. This is the right time and place to spread the nutritional wealth.”  He discusses the emergence of an effort to bring a food co-op right here to the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood in an attempt to address these very issues and bring both good food and meaningful employment opportunities to this community.

The work of Food in the ‘Hood is likewise vital as a component of addressing violence in our community from improvements in healthy selections at neighborhood corner stores to building a thriving farmers market for residents to congregate, share, and celebrate healthy local food.  Our collective investment in opportunities for residents of Bowdoin-Geneva to access healthy food and economic success  is indeed another method for breaking the cycles of poverty, unemployment, health disparity, and violence in our neighborhood and beyond.

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