A teen in the United Kingdom lost his eyesight to nutritional optic neuropathy, a condition most often seen in countries where nutritious food and the ability to eat a varied diet isn’t plentiful.

In this boy’s case, according to a report from the BBC, the boy existed on a diet of potato chips, French fries and white bread, with occasional pieces of processed ham or sausage.

At age 17, doctors said they found the boy had a vitamin B12 deficiency, low copper, selenium, vitamin D and bone density levels, and a high zinc level.

Doctors noted the teen had an aversion to certain textures, and, essentially, stuck with the foods he knew he would eat.

The boy’s story is a sad cautionary tale on how important a well-balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods, including fruits, vegetables and lean proteins is.

In some places, however, residents struggle to both afford a nutritious and healthy diet, and find easy access to the foods that will help them achieve it.

The former of those is called “food insecurity,” which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as limited access to food due to a lack of money or other resources.

Greene County has nearly 4,700 food insecure residents, according to research by Feeding America. Their numbers indicate that 12.6% of the entire population – including 19.5% of the county’s children – don’t regularly have enough food on the table.

Among all Greene families, 11.5% had incomes below the poverty level according to 2017 American Community Survey data, well above the statewide clip of 8.9%. While there are food pantries in the area, doing all they can, they can only help so much.

The latter concern – easy access to healthy foods – is the second part of the county’s double whammy.

In Greene, there are several areas where residents – even those who can afford it – struggle to get access to healthy foods.

Those places are considered food deserts: an area in which individuals have limited access to healthy food sources, as measured by the number of stores in an area, family income or transportation availability.

Many low-income areas in Greene are rural, at least 10 miles from the nearest market, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. A lot of Greene’s areas have more than 100 housing units in which the owners don’t have vehicles and are more than half a mile from the nearest supermarket.

Walking a half a mile to grab groceries might not seem that far, but dedicating time, that’s already limited, to traverse that distance isn’t always feasible. Certainly, walking 10 miles isn’t reasonable.

Lack of funds and lack of access should not exist when it comes to procuring health food, yet, rural, minority, and low income areas are often the sites of food deserts because they lack large, retail food markets and have a higher number of convenience stores. While they might be good for a quart of milk, convenience stores aren’t likely to supply fresh fruit or veggies.

Given the county’s poor health rankings (Greene ranked 62 of the state’s 67 counties in overall healthiness, according to a recent study), we hope elected officials will work to address the county’s nutritional needs and work to improve the county’s health rating.

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