Volume 29

Segregation, Racial Health Disparities, and Inadequate Food Access in Brooklyn

by Silvia M. Radulescu

Despite remarkable medical advances and the steady rise of New Yorkers’ overall life expectancies, striking health disparities exist among New Yorkers along racial and economic lines. Poor health is concentrated in predominantly
Black and Hispanic poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Within just a ten-mile radius in Brooklyn, there is a decade-long life-expectancy gap between white and Black residents. One reason for the racial health disparities is unequal access to healthy food. This Note examines the relationship between racial health disparities and unequal food access in Brooklyn and traces the disturbing inequality to government-sanctioned segregation policies. Part I presents a historical overview of the laws and policies that created segregation in Brooklyn. Part II distills Brooklyn’s present-day racial health disparities and food access inequalities. Part III argues that inadequate access to healthy food in poor Black and Hispanic Brooklyn neighborhoods results from twentieth-century, government-sanctioned segregation policies and practices. Finally, Part IV analyzes proposed policies and argues that any policies aimed at improving racial health disparities should be paired with initiatives that also address other segregation-rooted racial inequalities—such as generational wealth, income, and educational opportunities—to increase the likelihood of success.

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