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What is food insecurity? How Philly navigates hunger, food deserts, and access to good food.

Philadelphia Inquirer

August 8, 2022

The Center's director Mariana Chilton was interviewed for an article explaining what food insecurity is, how it impacts the Philadelphia region, and the important approaches necessary to address the root causes of it.

The main drivers of food insecurity in the U.S. and Philadelphia are poverty and systemic racism that create a lack of access to affordable housing, health care, education, and employment for certain neighborhoods and populations. All of these factors lead to a cycle of people living in poverty and not having access to adequate food throughout life, according to Mariana Chilton, director of Drexel’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities and researcher on food insecurity.

“[Children experiencing food insecurity] don’t do well in school and by the time they get to high school, they’re likely to have major problems,” said Chilton. “Which affects their economic well-being later on in life because you can’t make enough money, you didn’t have a good education, and might not get paid as well, etc.”

“By the time you become a parent yourself, you can be way behind, deeply poor, and struggling to feed your child — and it continues all over again,” she said.

Chilton says that household food insecurity won’t be solved with food itself. Food insecurity is an issue based on economics and discriminatory systems that isolate neighborhoods and its population from the finances and resources needed to access nutritious food.

“Philadelphia has a long history of redlining that keeps people out of certain neighborhoods and a very organized disinvestment in other neighborhoods,” she said.

“It’s a massive social injustice and oppression that happens in our society that people are born into poverty and can’t get out of poverty,” Chilton said. “It’s the way people treat each other and hoard money, power, resources, and land that lead to food insecurity.”

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