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May 17, 2018 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily

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I

’ll have a second helping of that
wonderful fish you got there,
Miss Julia.” A man who claims
to be named William Shakespeare
addresses me with familiarity. He’s
a regular at Food Gatherers on West
Huron Street, as are many locals
who volunteer their time and serve
dinner to those who can’t find it
elsewhere. “You know I’m from the
Caribbean. This meal tastes like
home to me.”
As I scoop a little extra fish onto
the plate of rice and beans I’ve
already made for William, I think
about how this meal not only carries
him back to his roots in Jamaica but
also nourishes him and relieves some
of the pressure that homelessness
places on his shoulders.
Homeless and poverty-stricken
individuals face food insecurity, or
simply put, the lack of access to food.
In an interview, Rackham student
Vivienne Hazzard, who is pursuing
a
doctorate
degree
in
public
health, explains, “food insecurity
is linked to lower diet quality,”
and is associated with “a variety of
adverse health outcomes, including
cardiovascular disease, Type 2
diabetes and cancer.” This link may
not seem novel; most of us have seen
or heard about “Super Size Me”,
the documentary about a man who
eats nothing but McDonald’s for a
month and ends up with all sorts
of poor health conditions. What
may seem surprising, however, is
the sheer volume of food-insecure
adults, seniors and children that
walk
through
Food
Gatherers’
doors, most of whom need a meal
on a daily basis. Each dinner, Food
Gatherers goes through countless
vats of mashed potatoes or multiple
sheets of peanut butter cake. Last
week, we exhausted a 5-gallon
container of strawberries halfway
through dinner.“Food insecurity
is much more prevalent than we
usually think,” Cindy Leung, an
assistant professor of nutritional
sciences, said in an interview with
me.
Leung
researches
dietary
and
health
disparities
among
certain populations that are more
vulnerable than others. She explains
even those above the poverty line
may have a hard time accessing
a sufficient amount of food, thus
exposing more Americans to hunger
than to poverty.
“Food insecurity can be as
simple as worrying about your food
running out before you have money
to buy more or not being able to eat a
balanced meal, and as severe as not

eating for a whole day because you
don’t have money for food,” Leung
said.
Our
campus
lies
within
Washtenaw
County,
an
area
with food insecurity rates at 13.6
percent, higher than the national
average at 12.3 percent. About
48,750 individuals, or 13.6 percent
of our county, report facing food
insecurity. They make up the
William Shakespeares, the faces to
the stomachs that are fed regularly
on West Huron. Emergency food
programs
like
Food
Gatherers
regularly see many of these people.
In a 2009 report, 85 percent of

those served at Food Gatherers
have monthly incomes less than
$500, 35 percent say a food kitchen
is their only or primary source of
food, and only 13 percent eat the
recommended servings of fruits and
vegetables. What’s preventing them
from eating more smoothies and
fresh veggies, you ask? About three
quarters of recipients say the main
obstacle is high costs.
Leung has started challenging
the assumption that food insecurity
only affects adults by studying the
effects of poor access to food in
college students. In 2015, a doctoral
student in her department found
that 41.5 percent of University of
Michigan
students
experienced
food insecurity at some point
that year. “The administration is
starting to work on strategies to
address this, but it will take a long
time to understand all the factors
that contribute to student food
insecurity and how universities
should best address food security
and other basic needs security
among students.”
This research is essential because
good nutrition is also extremely
important
in
fighting
diseases.
Millions of studies have been

published nationwide that show
the negative effects of a poor diet
on health. Foods with high fat and
sugar content are often cheaper
than nutritious proteins, fruits and
vegetables, forcing too much of our
population to resort to something
unhealthier, like that mysterious
fast-food
chicken.
Because
Washtenaw has the highest cost of
living in the state, we can see how
an inexpensive, low-quality diet is
often the only option.
How do we put an end to this
cycle? Leung says, “Food Gatherers
and other anti-hunger programs
are vital in helping to alleviate
food
insecurity
in
vulnerable
populations,
but
unfortunately,
they are not the be-all and end-all
solution.” She explains that we need
to tackle the roots of food insecurity.
Emergency food programs are used
at consistently high rates because
food insecurity continues to persist.
In Washtenaw, almost half of
community kitchen users reported
being “worse off” than they were
only a year ago. On the bright side,
with the knowledge that food
insecurity is related to lower diet
quality, programs are taking steps
in the right direction by adopting
nutrition standards for foods they
distribute. Food insecurity isn’t just
a hunger issue; it’s a nutrition issue.
Food banks should play a role in
distributing foods of high quality,
not just high quantity.
Can
Food
Gatherers
meet
the increased demand for their
services? Even with the 6.5 million
pounds of food served in 2017, Food
Gatherers President Eileen Spring is
worried many more locals may soon
struggle to find their next meal.
This is because of the imminent
U.S. House of Representative vote
on the Farm Bill; if passed, it would
involve huge cuts to SNAP, the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program. You might know SNAP
by its benefits, which were formerly
called food stamps. This hunger
safety net is the largest of its kind
in the United States and offers
food assistance to nearly 42 million
low-income
individuals.
The
Michigan branch of SNAP works
with neighborhood organizations
to ensure its nutritional-assistance
benefits reach all who are eligible.
If we want our community to
improve and reach its potential,
we must do all we can to ensure
the Farm Bill is not passed. We can
take action by urging our U.S. Rep.

5
OPINION

Thursday, May 17, 2018
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

in hostile states, along
with Pompeo’s prioritization
of curbing Iranian regional
military
expeditions,
granted the two a boon in
Tuesday’s
nixing
of
the
JCPOA, while only serving
to worry other signatories to
the deal.
These ambitions are left
empty without immediate
action to take the place of
the JCPOA, which Trump
has failed to put forward or
even outline. It must be kept
in mind that the urgency of
the JCPOA originated from
Iran’s supposed proximity to
full nuclear capability, and
the same should be kept in
mind for the regime now that
it will soon be unbounded by
the deal’s limitations. But,
tighter sanctions may not
be enough to force Iran back
to make a more conciliatory
deal before it reaches that
capability.
To begin with, Iran has
reacted
towards
Trump’s
decision by maintaining that
the U.S. was bound to break
its word from the beginning.
In addition to the general
tradition of distrust towards
the U.S. that this inspires
– namely in regards to the
upcoming meeting between
North Korea and the U.S.
over
Pyongyang’s
own
nuclear arsenal – it forces
Iran into a corner regarding
future deals with the U.S., at
the risk of being portrayed
as spineless to the Iranian
people.
This shortcoming could
perhaps be overcome, if not
for the lack of steps that
have been taken thus far
to remedy it. Namely, the
issue of forcing the deal’s
other signatories to comply
with a return to secondary
sanctions places the U.S. at

risk of clashing head-on with
the European countries that
originally helped broker the
deal.
Although, in the end, the
European signatories will
most likely side with the U.S.,
the case carries the danger
of blowing up and damaging
key alliances. The hesitation
this will likely cause could
prove lethal as Iran returns
to a limitless nuclear arena.
Ultimately,
Trump’s
refusal to compose anything
close to a comprehensive
Middle East policy has been
adequately reflected in his
abrupt withdrawal from the
Iran nuclear deal. As the
country has seen, Trump’s
brash “America First” calls
for
reduced
international
presence on his campaign
have often been relegated
to
distant
memories
the
moment they are confronted
by
more
uncomfortable
realities, as has been the case
in Syria and Afghanistan.
As
of
now,
Iran
will
prove no different. The
result
of
withdrawal,
beyond
the
probable
resumption
of
Iranian
nuclear
activity,
will
be
boosted Iranian confidence
in the absence of American
coherence. Without a plan
to
realistically
reinstate
sanctions to positive effect
by ensuring the unwavering
cooperation
of
all
other
signatories, the U.S. is left
with nowhere to turn to
after the nuclear deal. The
deal as it stood may have
instated its own problems,
but until further action, the
U.S. is surely worse off than
it was before.

Hannah Harshe can be reached at

hharshe@umich.edu.

Ethan Kessler can be reached at

ethankes@umich.edu.

CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVERSATION

Readers are encouraged to submit letters
to the editor and op-eds. Letters should
be fewer than 300 words while op-eds
should be 550 to 850 words. Send the
writer’s full name and University affiliation to
emmacha@umich.edu

Careening Towards Uncertainty by Ethan Kessler continued below:

“Poverty-
stricken
indivduals face
food insecurity,
or simply put,
the lack of acces
to food.”

JULIA MONTAG | COLUMN

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