Food Justice and COVID-19

Eat REAL is proud to be featured in Mother Jones’ recent article “How the American Diet Turbocharges COVID-19.” Our chief science officer, Dr. Robert Lustig, spoke with the magazine about how processed food-related diseases exacerbate the COVID-19 virus.

“We’ve known that processed food is dangerous, but we’ve always assumed it was for chronic diseases,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “What we didn’t know, until this pandemic, is that chronic disease also sets you up for morbidity and mortality from acute diseases” like COVID-19.

A diet packed with ultra-processed foods and high levels of added sugars can lead to processed food-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity. As the article notes, obese COVID-19 patients are twice as likely to require hospitalization, 1.75X more likely to require intensive care, and 1.5X more likely to die from the disease.

Like most institutions in this country, our food system was built on inequality and exploits BIPOC communities. Real, healthful food is a luxury that many families cannot afford. The millions of Americans in underpaid front-line jobs have the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 and are likely to reach for cheap and convenient processed foods. Latinx and Black children are seeing the fastest rise of diseases related to inequitable real food access.

 To combat the systemic racism seen in our food system and avoid the disastrous health consequences it causes, we must reinvent our current institutions. Eat REAL works to transform school meal programs so that all children – especially those from BIPOC communities – have access to real, healthful foods.

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