Two years ago the Globe covered a controversy regarding the Boston Public Schools serving expired foods. At that time, parents correctly raised concerns about the nutritional quality and social meaning of serving expired food. Concerns such as those were addressed to a degree in Monday’s article on the Urban Food Initiative (“Putting expired foods to healthy use,” Page A1), but they warrant further discussion as we grapple with reducing nutritional inequalities.
Food security is a measure of social disadvantage. Central to its definition is the ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways. For many parents in the Boston schools, serving expired foods to children was unacceptable. Likewise, many Boston residents may feel that it is unacceptable to sell expired food to low-income residents.
Providing affordable, healthy food to all Boston residents is imperative. Initiatives such as Boston Bounty Bucks offer low-income residents opportunities to access the same quality food as high-income residents. However, nutritional inequalities are the result of social inequalities. Therefore, access to living wages is an important part of the solution.
Despite the shortcomings of its approach, the Urban Food Initiative encourages dialogue regarding solutions to nutritional inequalities. Unlike used clothing, food is incorporated into who we are, sustaining culture and shaping identities. The food that low-income residents eat should not be what’s left over.
The writer is a doctoral student in community nutrition at Cornell University.