In the March 4, 2020, Student Edition episode, you’ll hear how students in Detroit took their own creative approach to solve one of today’s major economic problems. As a team, they worked on tackling the food deserts in their local community. Helping those who are have limited access to healthy foods is only one of the many ways that students participating in the Student Edition of FreshArt International are focused on increasing accessibility to build a better future.
Today, I will dive into the causes of food deserts and why making healthy food accessible requires innovative solutions like the one we featured. Additionally, I will discuss a much different layer of the Maslow* hierarchy of needs to understand why our basic, fundamental needs are not the only ones we should focus on meeting and how we can use technology to increase accessibility in the future.
While there is no standard definition for a “food desert,” it is generally classified as an area where residents do not have easy access to nutritious food options. These populations tend to rely on the limited food selections of gas stations and convenience stores rather than fresh produce from supermarkets or farmers markets. Limited access to nutritious food can influence their health outcomes as the literature notes diet is closely linked as a health mediating factor. Food deserts tend to rise in low income areas where the community has less voice or power to bring these resources to their neighborhoods. These populations are less likely to have private vehicles and are also more likely to take longer commutes, further perpetuating the nutritional gap by increasing the obstacles to obtaining the nutritious food they need.
Recent studies show though, that simply increasing grocery stores in areas of need will not solve this problem. In study by Alcott et al (2019)**, researchers observed through simulation studies that exposing food options in food deserts to levels equal to other, non-“desert,” areas only accounted for 10% of the nutritional inequality. This suggests there are bigger discrepancies in how food advertising in stores may target and harm nutritionally-at-risk populations or how consumers in these food desert communities make nutritional decisions. Increasing solutions such as the one by our students at Wayne State University don’t just stop at increasing food exposure. They also create new opportunities to educate and open dialogue about nutrition and increase health literacy in these areas. As one student describes for us, we must also “teach people about nutrition and [provide] education on how to use fresh foods that maybe you’ve never used before, if you’ve never had access to grocery stores.”
Health literacy programs work by increasing accessibility to information, much like Fresh Art International’s March 6, 2020, Student Edition episode that focuses on the accessibility to another form of information. In our information age, re-inventing the wheel should be a thing of the past. By utilizing the tools of our globalizing modern world, we can ensure that as ideas are generated, they reach wide audiences. Graduate students at Ontario College of Art and Design University are ensuring that this is the case for today’s art world. They take art curating into the digital domain, expanding accessibility both for viewers, producers, and makers. By opening accessibility to an online art world, they allow for a larger range of voices to be heard and seen. They allow the art world to be, as one student put it, “less of an inaccessible ‘ivory tower’ practice and more of an everyday thing.” These students work through the challenges of creating a visual experience in a non-physical space to improve the future of artistic and cultural communication.
Increasing accessibility has revolutionized our society before—from Guttenburg’s printing press to the World Wide Web, and will continue this legacy in the works of our students and many more projects designed around enabling access across the globe.
Contributed by Melissa Huberman, University of Miami
*Maslow’s hierarchy: Psychological theory proposed in 1943 by Abraham Maslow in “A Theory of Human Motivation,” which lists the five-tiered needs of humans for fulfillment.
**Hunt Allcott, Rebecca Diamond, Jean-Pierre Dubé, Jessie Handbury, Ilya Rahkovsky, Molly Schnell, “Food Deserts and the Causes of Nutritional Inequality,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 134, Issue 4, November 2019, Pages 1793–1844
The Student Edition began in 2019, with visits to art schools and universities in the United States and Canada, where we began recording voices of the future. In 2020, we present the first episodes in our Student Edition—conversations about creativity with emerging makers and producers. Given opportunities to explore and experiment, students are discovering how they can shape the world they live in.
Melissa Huberman is a senior at the University of Miami, majoring in Neuroscience, with minors is chemistry and sociology. She grew up on Florida’s Space Coast and has always been involved with the visual arts. She loves being able to share the intersectionality of science and art in any media and has previously written for University of Miami’s Scientifica Magazine. Borras is currently enrolled in AMS 350, in an experiential course at UM with Fresh Art’s founder, to explore the world of podcasting.