As college students, nutritionally rich and healthy food options come as a choice that we make if we have the time and money for, not in that order though.
While Metz Culinary Management offers fresh food options in dining services, accessibility to fresh food for college students at Gannon University is not being provided.
This is not a ‘slam’ on Gannon but rather on the growing nature of food deserts in Erie, specifically our downtown community that Gannon students live in.
A food desert is a census tract area in which at least one-third of the residents live a mile or more from a supermarket or large grocery store. The distance is 10 miles in rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the city of Erie, seven food desert regions have been created in the previous three years alone, for a total of 10 food deserts in Erie county.
The shift from a diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats to more processed, refined foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat does not only jeopardize personal health conditions, but it also points to the cultural relativism taking place in our wider community.
If we as a community can stand by in indifference while the already underserved get placed with more of a burden, now in terms of access to nutritional and healthy food, the Catholic presence in Gannon will be compromised.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a vocal critic of relativism, many times arguing that faith in God provides the strength to respond to the relativism. He argued that, “Being an ‘Adult’ means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith, which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ, is adult and mature.
“It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.”
We all know that highly processed foods are both full of artificial chemicals that can be toxic to the body and lack the nutritional value that is necessary to be healthy.
By not giving options for healthy, fresh food in our community we are allowing a major health concern to take place. As a campus, Gannon has an incredible medical program full of driven and inspiring health professionals.
As a community and during this season of Lent, perhaps God is calling us to address the food deserts around us that directly affect us through the individual gifts and talents we each uniquely possess.
This is an easy decision: eliminating and combating food deserts will support Gannon students and staff by providing healthier and more nutritious options for consumption while also tapping into a market that is not being provided for.
It would be both a financially intelligent decision for our community as well as the ethical thing to do.
In Romans 13:8-10 we read something similar to this thought, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
This Lent, it would make sense for us to respond out of love for neighbor and self to work toward eradicating food deserts by providing fresh foods to the community of our university and neighbors around us.