Growing up, I remember always being disappointed when vegetables were put on my plate, but I never asked myself why. In high school I was excited because we were allowed to go off campus for lunch, which meant I had one meal a day with “freedom.” There were plenty of fast-food options within walking distance and once my friends and I started to drive, the possibilities were endless.
As a freshman in college I continued this eating out trend. But once I moved off campus, I began to cook often. While I was eating healthier than I had since living at home, it wasn’t until I graduated and began teaching health in a Brooklyn, New York high school that I started to learn the answer to the question, Why is nutrition important?
The health teacher before me left materials in the classroom, including a yellow DVD titled “King Corn.” Out of desperation for an in-class activity one day, I played the DVD, which discussed corn in America. I learned that everything, and I mean almost everything is made with corn. This led me to watch a second documentary about food, “Food, Inc.”
After watching “Food, Inc.” I decided I was done eating meat. I thought this would last one week, but it turned in to six years of being a vegetarian. My family was skeptical, and my friends were skeptical, but I stuck with it. My main motivator was that I wanted to practice what I was preaching to my students.
Fast forward six years, I came home one day and my mom was watching a documentary about food. I asked, “What are you watching?” She replied, “A new documentary, ‘What the Health,’ I’m going to become a vegan.” I looked at her with a blank stare, sat down and we started it over. We were both surprised to learn how food has cured chronic disease in so many.
After reading more books (two of my favorites are “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease” by Michael Gregor and “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?” by Mark Hyman), I decided to embody a plant-based lifestyle. But really, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to pay attention to how food makes me feel. It’s not about losing weight or the new fad diet.
In This Article:
- Why Is Nutrition Important?
- Food Insecurity in America
- How Can You Help With Food Insecurity and Nutrition?
Why Is Nutrition Important?
When I eat fried food, I don’t feel good. When I eat a fresh salad filled with vegetables, nuts and an olive oil-based dressing, I do. To date, I have followed a plant-based diet for almost two years. I still eat out, for there is always a healthy option. Sometimes I have to be bold and ask the waiter or waitress, but I have never been turned away.
I’ve learned to cook so many new things and I've really embraced the journey I am having with food. I encourage everyone to find the foods that make them feel good physically and mentally. It is one thing you can do to be the best you.
Food Insecurity in America
Unfortunately, not everyone has the option of eating every day, let alone making healthy choices every day. Food insecurity and nutrition shortfalls are all too common. What is food insecurity? Well, consider this:
As I was prepping my meals for the week, a thought crossed my mind: “How is it possible that the United States suffers from food insecurity?” Specifically, Arizonans. Guilt and helplessness overwhelmed me because I’m able to open my refrigerator and have the option to choose between a variety of milk types to make pancakes. Helplessness because I’m only one person that wishes she had a magic wand to prevent disadvantaged children, adults and seniors from finding themselves without food.
Since the COVID pandemic, nearly one in three Arizonan households have struggled with food insecurity. Further, the majority of Arizonan households surveyed expressed concern about the affordability of food.1 When I see and hear these numbers, it’s difficult to comprehend that this occurs in an industrialized country.
How do you know which communities are in need? Feeding America undertook the Map the Meal Gap project to capture data throughout the United States at the community level. This project has networked with local food banks in communities that can then help the project understand the needs and population of each community.2
The number of people falling below the federal poverty threshold has been the indicator most typically used for identifying the need for food at the local level. This paints a clear picture that helps educate policymakers and community advocates about food insecurity, which in turn can allow them to address these issues.
How Can You Help With Food Insecurity and Nutrition?
Get involved and volunteer. Most food banks in Arizona or within your community love having a waiting list of volunteers.
You can join coalitions, organizations and foundations that are working toward improving access to healthier food. Volunteer and help your local farmer and create opportunities that will help the surrounding community. Step outside of your zip code to grasp the reality that some zip codes do not have the same opportunity as having a Sprouts or Whole Foods nearby.
So, my goal is to motivate you to get involved so that there are more of us with magic wands eradicating an unnecessary disparity in Arizona and beyond.
The College of Nursing and Health Care Professions and College of Science, Engineering and Technology help students prepare to pursue careers in the healthcare field. From nursing to health sciences to nutritional sciences, there are a wealth of degree programs to choose from that may enable you to make a positive difference in your community. Complete the form on this page to learn about the admissions process and our degree programs.
1 Greguska, E. (2020, December 1). Survey conducted by ASU researchers and collaborators found Hispanic households are among those most affected. Arizona State University. Retrieved June 8, 2023.
2 Feeding America. (n.d.). Food Insecurity Among Overall (All Ages) Population in the United States. Feeding America. Retrieved June 8, 2023.
Approved by the assistant professor of the College of Science, Technology and Engineering on Aug. 16, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.