Originally published in the National Urban League's State of Black America 2012.
Efforts to prepare the black community to compete and thrive in the 21st century workforce have rightfully focused on achieving educational equality and the development of appropriate job skills. The correlation between the attainment of a quality education and employment is well documented. Until recently, less focus has been placed on the health inequalities that exist in the black community, and how that impacts our ability to learn, earn, compete, live and thrive. Diet related maladies such as morbid obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease have reached epidemic levels and are a limiting factor in our economic competitiveness, and perhaps more importantly, our quality of life.
Simply put, the demand for healthy food in the black community is not being met by today’s marketplace, and we are suffering because of it. Since the health challenges of our communities are largely related to our patterns of food consumption, there is a significant opportunity to reverse these trends by changing how and what we eat. What is good for our bodies can be good business within our neighborhoods too. Windows of opportunity for job and wealth creation exist through the reform of the health and well-being of the black community. Positive by-products of this work include gains in personal productivity and savings in short and long-term healthcare costs. Innovative programs geared toward building demand for healthful food through education have been introduced in minority and low income communities throughout the country.