Hello, my name is Amari Easter and I am a graduating senior majoring in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. My Instagram is @uhhh_mari_socy. I am taking this course because I took African American Families in Social Context and felt as if I learned a lot from the class and took away a lot of useful information and I think that I will learn a lot from this class as well. Another reason that I am taking this class is because I believe that with us being on an urban campus like VCU it is imperative that we as not only VCU students, but sociology majors understand the city of Richmond that surrounds us. I hope to gain a better understand of topics that affects city areas such as food deserts, housing, and education.
One social issue facing the City of Richmond that I find to be important is the education system. Education is an important social issue to me because people try to present education as a way for children to escape poverty in their lives, but it is simply not this easy, even in Richmond. I use Richmond as an example because it is an urban environment and education in Richmond has always been a controversial social issue for several reasons. In the City of Richmond, the education level achieved only decreases with age. For example, although 80.4% of students have completed 8th grade, only 42.5% complete an associate’s degrees and only 36.7% completed a bachelor’s degree. These statistics show that education can be hard to achieve for various reasons. One reason can be the decreased willingness of teachers to teach in lower income communities and if they do teach, it is not to help a student succeed, it’s all about the money (https://www.areavibes.com/richmond-va/schools/richmond+community+high-510324002075/).
A. Definition and Scope: Food deserts are described as areas where residents do not have access to affordable and healthy food options because of the strong absence of grocery stores. According to the article, about 2.3 million people live more than a mile away from a supermarket and do not have access to a car. I noticed that some parts of Richmond can be classified as food deserts. For example, I did a research project on the neighborhood of Jackson Ward that had no grocery store in sight or nearby when we visited. We only saw a few liquor stores and a corner store. As VCU students, we are lucky to have the Kroger nearby most of us, even if the selections in it are not great. Food deserts are much more common in areas of lower socioeconomic status. According to the article, studies have found that wealthy areas have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do. One local example that I thought of was Jackson Ward in comparison to Short Pump. As I mentioned, there are no grocery stores in Jackson Ward, but in Short Pump, a much more affluent area, there are dozens of grocery stores. A negative consequence of food deserts is that eating unhealthy foods can put people at a greater risk of numerous health problems such as diabetes and hearts disorders.
B. Food Apartheid: I found the Clint Smith piece to be very powerful. One part that stood out to me was when he says, “Brown skin little boys like my students are nothing more than walking cacti, just a piece of scenery this world has taught everyone to stay away”. This stood out to me because a large reason that food deserts exist is because people ignore the experiences of people in communities of color. I really liked that Smith recognizes the problems in his community and even in the school he teaches at because even acknowledging that there is a problem is a good step toward a change. Smith deepened my understanding of food deserts in the sense that sometimes we don’t think about what communities are associated with food deserts. I understand that communities of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to live in a food desert, but sometimes I don’t think about how these communities are disproportionately filled with people of color. Karen Washington uses the term “food apartheid” to encompass the whole food system, rather than just the economic or racial aspect of food deserts. Washington mentions how saying “food apartheid” shows that there is potential in changing this system and saying this term gets to the root of the problem in the food system. I personally like how I think that Washington using a different term helped me to understand food deserts better because I agree with her opinion that using this term shows that there is potential in a food desert.
C. Food Deserts in Virginia: Throughout the documentary, I wouldn’t have guessed that there were so many food deserts only in Virginia. I didn’t expect to learn that Petersburg (about 30 minutes from campus) has been identified as “one of the most severe food deserts in the Commonwealth”. There are many organizations such as the Federation of Virginia Food Banks that “serve hungry citizens across Virginia through food pantries, soup kitchens, and programs targeted specifically to school children and senior citizens”. One thing that stood out to me in this documentary is that across the country 23.5 million people live in food deserts, with 6 million being children. This is very sad to hear because it’s hard to imagine anyone going hungry, but children are an important group that need food the most during the most crucial time in their development.
Something that stood out to me this week is in the documentary elderly people having to travel in the most inconvenient ways to get food for themselves and their families. These readings really show that those who are lucky enough to have a store nearby or even a way to get to one are very privileged. I couldn’t imagine only eating unhealthy or fast food every day with no choice, people in food deserts don’t deserve to not have access to healthy food. It’s sad that people in food desert communities don’t have access to healthy food and it’s important to raise awareness on this issue in order to change it.