Mindful Eating For The Beloved Community

Author: Chef Alex Askew, co-founder of BCAGlobal

Repost from Food For Thought 2020

Health starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. We know that eating well, staying active, not smoking, getting the recommended immunizations, screening tests, and seeing a doctor when we are sick are all factors that can influence our health. But our health is also determined in part by our access to social and economic opportunities: the resources and support available in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities, the quality of our education, the safety of our workplaces, the cleanliness of our water, food, and air, and the nature of our social interactions and relationships. 

The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Americans are healthier than others, and why Americans are not generally as healthy as they could be. By working to establish policies that positively influence social and economic conditions, we can improve the health of large numbers of people in ways that can be sustained over time. Improving the conditions in which we live, learn, work, and play will create a healthier population, society, and workforce.

Food Insecurity is a key issue in the Economic Stability domain

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides food insecurity into two categories:

  • Low food security - Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. 
  • Very low food security - Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of a lack of money or other resources. In 2014, 17.4 million U.S. households experienced food insecurity at some time during the year. Food insecurity does not necessarily cause hunger, but hunger is a possible outcome. Food insecurity may be long-term or temporary, and it may be influenced by a number of factors including income, employment, race, and disability. 

Poverty is a primary risk factor for food insecurity: in 2016, 31.6% of low-income households were food insecure, compared to the national rate of 12.3%. That same year, Black, non-Hispanic households were nearly two (2) times more likely to be food insecure than the national average (22.5% versus 12.3%, respectively). Among Hispanic households, the prevalence of food insecurity was 18.5%. Disabled adults are at a higher risk for food insecurity due to limited employment opportunities and increased rates of poverty, as well as a lack of transportation access to purchase affordable, healthy foods. 

Residents are at risk for food insecurity in neighborhoods where transportation options are limited as the travel distance to stores is greater and there are generally fewer supermarkets. Lack of access to either public transportation or a personal vehicle further limits access to food. Groups who may lack transportation to healthy food sources include those with chronic diseases or disabilities, residents of rural areas, and some minority groups. A study in Detroit found that people living in low-income, predominantly Black neighborhoods travel an average of 1.1 miles farther to the closest supermarket than people living in low-income, predominantly White neighborhoods.

Adults who are food insecure may be at an increased risk for a variety of negative health outcomes and health disparities. For example, one study shows evidence of higher rates of chronic disease in low-income, food-insecure adults between the ages of 18 and 65. Food-insecure children may also be at an increased risk for a variety of negative health outcomes, including a higher risk of developmental problems compared with food-secure children. In addition, reduced frequency, quality, variety, and quantity of consumed foods may have a negative effect on children’s mental health.

The Beloved Community: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Prescription for a Healthy Society

 “The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, founder of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, went on to popularize the term and his vision for a just and equitable world has captured the imagination of people around the world for decades.

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. - The King Center

As described by Jeff Ritterman, MD, “Fundamental to the concept of the Beloved Community is inclusiveness, both economic and social. A world where everyone can share in the earth’s bounty describes a society in which resources and assets are shared far more justly than in today’s world.

Economic and social justices are the twin pillars supporting the Beloved Community. These twin pillars are also necessary for a healthy society. What would be the health impacts of living in such a society?

In highly unequal countries, like the United States, health outcomes and social well-being suffer among the general population. We don’t live as long as our peers in more equal countries, nor do our infants or children. We incarcerate more of our citizens, our children score worse on math and science tests, we trust one another less, and we kill one another more often. Greater inequality of income leads to a generalized societal dysfunction.”

Chef Alex Askew is a professional chef and co-founder of BCAGlobal. 

In 2014, Alex was selected as a 2014 National Kellogg Fellow in Leadership in the Racial, Equity and Healing (REH) cohort. 

He has served on the TCME Advisory Board since 2020. 

Alex can be found on www.bcaglobal.org

Social Determinants of Health and the Beloved Community References

  • Phelan JC, Link BG, Tehranifar P. “Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities: theory, evidence, and policy implications.” J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51(1 Suppl):S28-S40. [PubMed]
  • Ramirez, Laura K. Brennan, Baker, Elizabeth A., Metzler, Marilyn, Promoting Health Equity; A Resource to Help Communities Address Social Determinants of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. © 2008.
  • www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dch/programs/healthycommunitiesprogram/tools/pdf/sdoh-workbook.pdf (.pdf)
  • LaVeist TA, Pierre G. “Integrating the 3Ds--social determinants, health disparities, and healthcare workforce diversity.” Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974) 2014;129 Suppl 2:9-14. 
  • Thomas SB, Quinn SC, Butler J, Fryer CS, Garza MA. “Toward a fourth generation of disparities research to achieve health equity.” Annual Review of Public Health 2011; 32:399. 
  • Braveman P. “Health disparities and health equity: concepts and measurement.” Annual Review of Public Health, 2006;27:167-194. 
  • Ford CL, Airhihenbuwa CO. Critical race theory, race equity, and public health: toward antiracism praxis. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100(S1):S30-S35.
  • Ritterman, Jeff MD, “The Beloved Community: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Prescription for a Healthy Community,” © 2014 in Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-beloved-community-dr_b_4583249
  •  Wright, Dr. Autheree, “25 Traits of the Beloved Community.” in The United Methodist Church: Religion and Race © 2016 http://www.gcorr.org/25-traits-of-the-beloved-community/
  • Gregg, Carl, “What Do We Mean When We Say “Building the Beloved Community?” in Patheos. © 2015 https://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2015/03/what-do-we-mean-we-when-say-building-the-beloved-community/