Public Response

While statistics show that food insecurity is a far-reaching and common issue in the United States, there is a certain amount of stigmatization that exists surrounding the subject.

“It is a hard-sell to convince the person on the street that hunger exists in America, when there is a well-established inverse association between social class and body size, that is, the poorer one is, the heavier they tend to be,” Oths said.

According to Oths and studies done on the topic, obesity is driven by the consumption of high-calorie low-nutrient foods. These foods are commonly found in food deserts, and at low-income-applicable prices. The majority of individuals living in food deserts are living paycheck to paycheck, and by the end of the month, most of the funds allocated for healthy foods are gone. This increases stress and anxiety over access to food.

Like Oths, Henry Lipsey thinks the general public largely misunderstands food insecurity. Lipsey is the executive director for the West Alabama Food Bank.

“The anxiety over where the next meal is coming from disrupts an individual’s life more than the actual hunger does in many cases,” Lipsey said. “You have a mother who is on the tail-end of her paycheck for the week, and she sees that fresh produce will cost almost twice what a trip to McDonald’s will—doubtless she is going to feed her children McDonald’s.”

Lipsey calls it the hunter-gatherer effect.

“An adult who has to constantly looking for food sources becomes a hunter-gatherer, and because of it, other priorities fall to the wayside,” Lipsey said.

Priorities like healthcare, jobs, and looking for healthier options are what get lost in the mix. The food bank serves as a middleman for helping stop such an effect, but is not the end game.

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Federal measures such as the Good Samaritan Act, which protects grocers and retail stores who donate overstock to food banks, along with the T-FAB program, help the issue, but have yet to solve it. Food deserts in Tuscaloosa span across different areas for varying reasons, and the tornado of 2007 only made inflamed the situation.