What’s in a Word?

A view of a street at night with fast food restaurants lining either side.What should we  call areas in the country where healthy foods are at a minimum?  Activists have often used the term “food desert”. But, as time has passed, many activities believe it is a misleading term as food often is available, it may be of a lesser quality (think mealy tomatoes or wilted lettuce) or of questionable nutritional value (think chips, soda, and fast food).  Likewise, those who bristle at that term think that “desert” may imply a permanent, unchangeable state.  The term “Food swamps” is an alternative. Some view the term as too charged and pejorative.  Food swamps describe areas where unhealthy foods outnumber healthy foods by a count of four to one. Food word

Baltimore came up with an  alternative term: “healthy food priority area“.  This term is void of any charge that was intended to shock, motivate, or reform out. It feels bland and PC.

I recently read this amazing article called “Food apartheid: the root of the problem with America’s groceries“.  Food activist Karen Washington uses the term “food apartheid” to purposefully bring up the discomfort that the term evokes. She wants us to grapple with the racism and institutionalized inequality that the word inspires.

I am on board. Food word

Beyond Food: Food Word

I am of the school of thought that we should use the term “impoverished” instead of “poor” to demonstrate that a structure is in place that is doing the impoverishment.  Likewise, at a previous job, we tried to use the term “starving” instead of “malnourished” to evoke a reaction of a sense of unfairness and urgency.

What terms do you wish to see banished from our development and public health lexicons? What do you wish we would start saying? I want to see “empowerment” to go by the wayside!

PS: Read more about what Vanuatu is doing in this area!

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