One of the single most difficult things for me to maintain as an adult is a healthy diet, and I know I am not the only one on campus to struggle with this. I would gladly take a greasy burger over a salad any day. This fact should not only be attributed to my diet being similar to that of a four year old, but also to how difficult obtaining and preparing healthy food is for college students and people with lower incomes.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 23 million Americans live in a food desert. A food desert is defined as a place with little to no access to grocery stores, farmers markets or other healthy foods vendors. In urban areas, people who have no access to a car and live farther than one mile from a grocery store live in a food desert
According to the USDA, there were 17 identified food deserts in Greensboro. While you can get to McDonalds, Taco Bell or any other fast food restaurant fairly easily anywhere in Greensboro, those fast food options do not give many people the ability to have a healthy, balanced meal.
Even if grocery stores were conveniently located to everyone, could everyone afford to shop there? In most lower income areas, fast food is a better option than difficult to prepare health food that can be found in a grocery store. I can spend around three or four dollars at Taco Bell and get a burrito, Doritos and a drink. How many good options for prepared health food do we have on campus? Wild Greens can be found in the bottom floor of the EUC, but having salad every day would not provide all of the nutrients or variety a person would need or want.
I know I often personally choose to eat at Taco Bell on campus because it is much cheaper than using flex to get into the caf. I have a flex-only meal plan because that meets my needs for less money than a meal plan with swipes would. Pretty much anywhere in America, it can often feel like the healthier the food, the more expensive it is.
I should not have to pay more for a salad than I do for a burger. Prepared, healthy food should not be so scarce when it is also necessary for the wellbeing of people in our own backyard. In Greensboro, we have kids living off of Burger King rather than balanced meals.
There are very few places available to get already-prepared health foods. A McDonald’s Bacon Ranch Salad with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken has 490 calories. It also has 95mg of cholesterol, which is almost one third of the daily recommended value. Even food that is supposed to look healthy might not be good for us when it is found in a fast food restaurant. We need to have fast, cheap health food alternatives, so young people and people with low incomes can have access to healthy food the same way we have access to unhealthy fast food.
Availability and price are incredibly important when considering the practicality of most health foods. For many in Greensboro, prepared healthy food is not affordable enough. Even if it were affordable, it is not close by. Already-prepared healthy foods should be as cheap and easily attainable as a burger from McDonald’s.
I, by no means, have a healthy diet, as I am sure many of us college students do not. I am fueled by chocolate, pasta and my own willpower. Many people in Greensboro, though, have no choice but to eat food that lacks the vitamins and nutrients they need. Healthy food needs to be cheaper and more readily available if there is ever any hope of having healthy diets for everyone in America.