About the Podcast:

Researcher and associate professor in kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago Angela Odoms-Young asks all of us to take a historical perspective when talking about race, class and food insecurity.

Episode 27:

Episode 28:

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Angela Odoms-Young

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Her #1 tip to improve access to healthy food:

People living in poverty are extremely resourceful. If we build-up others who are struggling, they could be the ones to change the world!

About Angela Odoms-Young:

Angela Odoms-Young is an associate professor in kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research is focused on understanding social, cultural, and environmental determinants of dietary behaviors and diet-related diseases in low-income populations and communities of color. Dr. Odoms-Young’s previous projects include studies to evaluate the impact of the new WIC food package on dietary intake, weight status, and chronic disease risk in 2-3 year old low-income children and vendor participation; identify strategies to improve program participation and retention among WIC eligible children; evaluate the efficacy of a community-based participatory weight loss intervention in African American women; and examine community engagement approaches to promote food justice.

Prior to joining UIC, Dr. Odoms-Young served on the faculty of Northern Illinois University in Public Health and Health Education. She received a BS in Foods and Nutrition from University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign and PhD/MS in Community Nutrition from Cornell University. Dr. Odoms-Young also completed a Family Research Consortium Postdoctoral Fellowship examining family processes in diverse populations at the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Community Health Scholars Fellowship in community-based participatory research at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

Discussion Takeaways:

  • As nutrition professionals, so often, we tell people what it looks like to eat healthily, but we’re not giving people the proper training on how to do it.
  • What happens early in life can create a trajectory for adversity later. It’s society’s job to set buffers for some of the early issues people face. It’s on society to put those supports in place.
  • People who are low income are often viewed as having less power in society than those with titles or privilege. If a low resourced individual were to advocate for something within policy, school, or work; their message comes across a lot differently than it would if it came from a doctor’s mouth.
  • Managing chronic conditions associated with heart disease or maybe diabetes can be an economic hardship. If you don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and your employment does not provide a health insurance plan that leaves you struggling to pay the high prices for private insurance. When you actually get sick, the issue only grows. Now you don’t have the means to work or bring in income, and you still need to pay hospital bills.
  • When struggles behind food insecurity are not your reality, it’s hard to identify with others in this situation. When you talk to people with lived experience, the causes of poverty become so clear.
  • We need to have more positive curiosity about situations that we have never experienced. We can ask people about food insecurity, COVID19, or racism, instead of closing down and thinking these situations didn’t happen because they never happened to us.
  • People living in poverty are extremely resourceful. If we build-up others who are struggling, they could be the ones to change the world!
  • Asset-based community development is taking a strength-based approach to helping others. We have to understand that food insecure have a lot of agency just to survive. What would happen if they were to free to apply this agency elsewhere?
  • History impacts who you are today. Some people have unearned privilege because of the supports that their family or ancestors put in place. Others may struggle because of the constructs set in their past.
  • Poverty is not something that is permanent. Many people come in and out of it.
  • You don’t have to be born into poverty to end up in poverty.
  • It’s difficult to think that slavery, which happened 400 years ago, impacts people’s lives today. But, slavery was an event that disrupted a group of people’s expected trajectory for success. Slavery didn’t allow people to earn an income, maintain their health and wellbeing, and cultivate community stability. The lack of these things makes it difficult for many black people to interact with society now. To add to that, slavery didn’t just happen hundreds of years ago. Discrimination happened every year since then.
  • Ongoing structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal discrimination causes an internalized suppression, widens economic gaps, increases food insecurity, causes fragility within familial structures, and much more. These types of barriers can’t be overcome without society’s help.
  • We must face our racist history to move forward.
  • Income and racism are two of the major drivers causing food insecurity.
  • The lack of healthy food options in black communities has been reported since the 1960s. This issue is not new.
  • Changing people’s perspective about food insecurity will take time. We should take baby steps to build bridges between differing viewpoints.
  • If you want to support this cause, start by supporting the immediate need within your community. Volunteer, mobilize, and donate to local agencies that address food insecurity. Then, educate yourself. Start to really understand how your society got to this point. Finally, consider how your skill set can address this major issue.

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