To the editor,
Spring is in the air — a time to look forward to gardens, farmer’s markets and eating our favorite fresh fruits and vegetables. I wanted to take a moment to pause and raise up our neighbors who face barriers in obtaining healthy food.
One in six Ohioans lack consistent access to adequate food to support an active, healthy life, and more than 19 percent of Athens County residents are food insecure. This issue impacts people of all ages, from children to the elderly, and it contributes to poor health outcomes and obesity. Food insecure adults are disproportionately impacted by diabetes and high blood pressure.
While there are federal and state programs that focus on increasing access to healthy food, they often fall short of addressing the needs of individuals in our communities. Many organizations such as community food pantries, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank, Rural Action, Community Food Initiatives, and others have stepped up to help narrow this gap and support those in our region who lack access to healthy food.
Food insecurity and hunger in southeast Ohio rose to national prominence in 2019, when Joe Burrow highlighted the issue as he accepted the Heisman Trophy. This resulted in an outpouring of financial support, but the underlying issues of poverty, access and transportation remain and have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Food pantries in the region have experienced a greater than 20 percent increase in the number of families seeking their services over the past year.
I would ask that as you enjoy the bounty of the season, you spare a thought for those who lack access to these resources and consider supporting organizations that are working to bridge the gap between hunger and healthy nutrition.
Beth A. Longenecker, DO
Dean, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens; and Medical Director, Heritage College Community Health Programs