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Obesity in Black Communities an Issue of “Food Justice”

Food Justice is focusing on bringing about equity in terms of access to healthier foods in all communities. The food justice movement is a fast-growing one, as more attention is being paid to childhood obesity and the higher rates of obesity among minority groups.

"What we know from research is that communities that are primarily African American, as well as Latino, tend to have fewer grocery stores where you can find greater access to a variety of foods and lower-cost foods," said Monica Baskin, associate professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She spoke at the University of Pittsburgh on the topic Thursday. She said combatting the growing obesity epidemic requires a lot of pieces. Education is a big part, but only one part.

"Even when you know what you need to do, making sure that you can have access to that. If the nearest grocery store is two neighborhoods or communities away and you don't have the appropriate transportation to get there, then it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the parent who wants to do the right thing to do that," said Baskin.

She said that community dialogue on the subject is important, especially if it can bring together lawmakers, academics, social workers and others to work on solutions.

"Having leaders talk about these conditions, talk about these issues and come up with solutions that make sense. The other thing that I think is important is to involve members of the community, so we're talking about things that impact a certain group — we need to hear community voices," said Baskin.

The crux of the food justice movement is making sure that everyone has equal access to low-cost, healthy foods. Baskin said work is underway in many areas, including Pittsburgh, to connect farmers and gardeners with urban neighborhoods and corner stores who may not currently offer healthy foods.

Baskin spoke at Pitt as part of their annual Reed Smith Spring Speaker Series.