Focusing on food insecurity in migration | Bronx Free Press

By Sherry Mazzocchi

Photos: Archives, Casa del Migrante Saltillo | J. Manzo

About 1.9 million migrants were stopped at borders by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol within the past 12 months, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). All but about 200,000 encounters occurred at the southwest border.

Government instability, violence and, increasingly, climate change are just a few reasons people flee their home. Poverty and lack of food are also prime motivations, but little is known about food insecurity during the actual journey. Migrants are often at their most vulnerable when they are in active transit, and among the challenges to their physical and mental stability are food insecurity issues.

Dr. Manuela Orjuela-Grimm, lead author of a paper published in Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health last month, said the extent and consequences of food insecurity during migration are not well known, but anecdotal evidence reveals that it’s common when people are “on the move.”

An Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Pediatrics at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, Orjuela-Grimm’s research focuses on gene-nutrient and environment interactions during pregnancy and childhood as well as the development of genetic and epigenetic changes in childhood disease.

Her interest in food insecurity stems from research within local immigrant communities, particularly adolescents. “We were trying to understand what they’ve gone through, including after arriving in New York, basically their risk for health problems,” said Orjuela-Grimm. There is ample research about what happens to people during chronic food insecurity, she said. “But what we wanted to do was try to understand how food insecurity [impacts people] during a very short period in which it can be quite severe.”

Read more: Focusing on food insecurity in migration

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