Special Edition: Food Privilege and Space/Transportation

Continuing in the Food Privilege and Food Insecurity series, today we are tackling the barriers of Space and Transportation. As a reminder Food Insecurity is defined as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” The key phrases in this definition for this topic are “reliable access” and “sufficient quantity.”

Reliable Access

We will start with reliable access, which predominately links to transportation. Most people I know don’t even think about transportation as an issue most days, but the second your car is out of commission… transportation is a HUGE issue. I mean think about the last time your car was in the shop for longer than a day and you didn’t have a rental car, or someone else’s car to borrow. What did you do? Did you take a bus? train? walk? carpool? Did you leave the house?

Now imagine that being your everyday life. Every single thing you needed to do has to be done by getting on a bus or a train, including grocery shopping.

If you are anything like me, you grocery shop once a week. You grab all the essentials in a few tote bags and then if you run our of something or forget something you can swing by the grocery store the next day, no big deal. But without my car, things become difficult. When I need to get items in bulk from Costco, my car helps transport those things… but I can’t imagine carrying the giant thing of toilet paper or 2 gallons of milk on the train or bus. And the worst part of being dependent on alternate modes of transportation is that buses and trains are not always reliable. Sometimes the bus is late or the train schedule is altered due to cancellations. So what do you do? Do you walk more than a mile to the grocery store if you live in a food desert? Do you bum a ride off a friend in hopes that they won’t mind that you are going to need to shop for a bit?

Having reliable access to food means having reliable transportation. Without reliable transportation, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get affordable and nutritious food, especially if you live in a food desert, or even worse, a food swamp (food swamp means fast food on fast food and no grocery stores). If you can’t get to the food, you have a barrier to access. But even if you can get to the food… do you have enough room to store it?

Sufficient Quantity

If money, transportation, and time aren’t barriers for you, you aren’t out of the woods just yet. Take it from someone who lives with three roommates, limited space to store food can be a barrier to making sure you have a sufficient quantity of food and can then trigger other barriers like time. Living in a house where you have to share refrigerator space with three other people can be tricky. We are constantly fighting for space. Luckily we have an outside fridge, but that quickly gets filled with food for the four dogs and beer for one of the roomies. Pantry space is even harder to come by at times. Haris and I have separate cabinets purchased from IKEA that function as makeshift pantries in order to give everyone space.

The Reality: my fridge currently with four unrelated people sharing it.

The smaller the space you have, the smaller storage space you have to put oils, vinegars, spices and other necessities. You may even have a smaller fridge (European style maybe) or be forced to use a mini fridge depending on your living situation. This means that you will have to grocery shop more which may not be feasible due to time barriers or you will have to eat out more which may not be feasible due to a money scarcity. A lack of space is a barrier that many people who are food secure/privileged don’t often have to think about but as rents continue to rise and house prices leave many of us wondering if we will ever be home owners, limited space is something more and more people are struggling with.

The Dream Sold to Us: the fridge we are all told to aspire to have…look at all that space you can waste!

Just some food for thought. Never take your space or transportation for granted… you never realize what hardships come along with a lack of either one.


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