2017 Data on Average Death Rate and Household Income – Durham County [1] compass.durhamnc.gov/#DIABETES_WHITE/tract/.

Published in 2014, this primary source includes an informational graph featured in Durham Neighborhood Compass – an online health statistics database for Durham County. The graph depicts the differences in average life expectancies across Durham County, including the average household incomes across the eight Durham zip codes [1]. This graphical illustration provides a compelling argument on how differences in income result in varying life expectancies, largely due to the limited nature and affordability of nutritious food among many Durham residents.

Upon looking at the average life expectancies, we can see how the light green and white areas have an expectancy ranging from 60.6-67.4 years, as compared to the life expectancy of 72.7-90.2 years seen within the blue and dark green areas [1]. It is no surprise that the zip code’s with lower life expectancies represent areas with lower household incomes, while the higher life expectancies feature more affluent residents. Although there are many factors that contribute to the large gap in life expectancies, one of the most influential drivers is the presence of healthy food available to Durham residents across these various areas. According to Google Maps, it was found that zip codes #1-4 have nearly twice as many health food stores as zip codes #5-8, which includes Whole Foods, farmer’s markets, and Trader Joe’s [3]. Moreover, it was found that zip codes #5-8 contain a significantly higher concentration of fast food restaurants as compared to the higher income zip codes [3]. The chief reason for these differences lies in the fact that we are in an era where healthier foods are significantly more expensive, forcing lower income households to consume junk food. In addition, the current state of our consumer economy has led these food establishments to solely care about profits, rather than the health of their consumers, further perpetuating the the segregation between health and junk food stores across Durham. By consistently consuming unhealthy foods, consumers are taking in high levels of transfats and cholesterol, making them vulnerable to diabetes and coronary issues, which in turn, contributes to the lower death rates found within lower-income areas [4]. This recent trend has made the reliance on unhealthy food by poor families an inescapable cycle paving way to one of the largest contemporary food issues prevalent in the 21st Century.

The strong correlation between the affordability of nutritious food on life expectancy plays a vital role in understanding the long and intricate food story of Durham/Chapel Hill. The ongoing struggle in finding healthy foods has led to many Durham residents to rely on unhealthy, cheaper options, which imposes many negative health risks on lower-income areas. Fortunately, many activists are currently working with Durham County officials to help improve the health and quality of lives of current residents through organizations such as the Healthy Durham 20/20, aimed to help introduce healthy alternatives to the current food options. Although this contemporary food issue continues to cast its dark shadow over Durham County, many individuals have started to take action, in hope to leave this ongoing issue in Durham’s past.


Honor Code: I certify that no unauthorized assistance has been received or given in the completion of this work — Isaac Murov

Works Cited:

[1] Killeen, John, et al. “Durham Neighborhood Compass.” Durham Neighborhood Compass, compass.durhamnc.gov/#DIABETES_WHITE/tract/.

[2] ZipAtlas.com Development Team. Median Household Income in Durham, NC by Zip Code, zipatlas.com/us/nc/durham/zip-code-comparison/median-household-income.htm.

[3] Google Maps, Google, www.google.com/maps.

[4] Enron: What Caused the Ethical Collapse, This Is Calabash, webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3ApF24ojBVEmAJ%3Ahttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.rti.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fresources%2Ffull_hunger_report_final_07-24-14.pdf%2B&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-b-1.