Stranded In The Food Desert

Genevieve Miller opens up about food scarcity & insecurity. We examine the neglect of socioeconomic infrastructure, and how filling bellies inexplicably takes a backseat to filling potholes.

(1:22) Mitch introduces Genevieve Miller, Director of Advocacy at Indy Hunger Network. She gives us the lay of the land regarding how millions of Americans, many of whom are located smack in the middle of high-density urban areas, find themselves unable to access food. She cites USDA's official definition of a food desert as a community with 20%+ poverty & 33%+ located a mile or more away from a grocery store. (4:45) Genevieve calls out the distinction between food access and food security, with the later being a function of having the economic stability to acquire and possess food at a healthy consistency. (6:25) Mitch brings up Genevieve's prior supervisor, Pete Buttigieg, and his current battle to create a bipartisan appreciation for infrastructure as access development rather than simply road development. (10:52) Genevieve points out some startling facts about food scarcity & security, noting that in her county alone, more than 25% of residents struggle to put (and keep) food on their tables. Nationally, Coronavirus brought much of the USA towards the levels Indianapolis regularly sees, with food insecurity jumping from 11% to 23%. We discuss the potential silver lining of having almost every American briefly experience an empathetic moment of scarcity in their pandemic quest for toilet paper or hand sanitizer, if not basic food and supplies. Genevieve finishes out her statistics by reminding us that food safety net programs benefit 70% of Americans at some point in their lives, and federal nutrition programs are responsible for 84% of food assistance. (21:51) Mitch asks about the state of litigation & liability that historically served as an excuse -- valid or otherwise -- for destroying unsold food rather than making it available to those in need. (25:02) Mitch's hot take: food should be a public utility given the abundance of resources we currently dedicate or dismiss. The luxuries of Whole Foods and restaurants can continue to operate in private markets as they do today, and most people with food stability would never notice a difference to their immediate lifestyle. Genevieve entertains the idea but points towards the broader problem of poverty as something we can and should solve, given how much we know about the holistic socioeconomic ROI of supporting fellow community members in need.