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Democratic lawmakers said that part of the solution in fighting against diseases disproportionately affecting African Americans is by focusing on curtailing food deserts around the country.
In a conversation with The Hill’s race and politics reporter Cheyanne M. Daniels on Thursday, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) said that among the top 10 diseases Americans die from, African Americans rank No. 1 in eight of the 10 and that food availability would help address some of the major illnesses besides eating healthier.
“When you think about maternal health issues and other issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, those kinds of things, food would help if we could eat healthier, but also it has to be around us,” Kelly said during The Hill’s “U.S. Healthcare’s Annual Checkup” event. “We have to have access.”
Food deserts are geographic areas where residents have restricted or nonexistent access to healthy, affordable food within a reasonable travel distance.
“Food deserts exist,” Kelly said. “Urban, suburban and even rural. When you think you have farms, but we’ve heard people say they go to the gas station and get their banana or their apple, those kinds of things.”
In America, almost 40 million people experienced food insecurity in 2020, including close to 12 million children, according to Feeding America.
To fight against the spread of food deserts and assist Americans facing health issues, Kelly said that she is bringing these struggles to the “forefront.”
“We just have to make sure we pass legislation or provide resources to underserved or unserved communities so they have opportunity and they have hope,” Kelly said.
“When you think about how many people go to sleep at night and they’re hungry, how many kids go to sleep at night and they’re hungry, that all has an effect on your development and your thoughts and as you grow to be an adult.”
The event was sponsored by CVS Health.