Food Desert on the Hunters Point Hilltop located in the heavily industrialized southeast sector of San Francisco adjacent to a system of federal Superfund sites at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. There are no grocery stores on the Hunters Point Hilltop.

The USDA defines a food desert as a region without access to nutritious, affordable, quality whole food. Food deserts are areas with a 20% or greater poverty rate and where a third of residents live more than a mile from a supermarket, farmers market or local grocery store. In The Grocery Gap, Food Trust researchers found African Americans 400% more likely to live in a community that lacks a full service supermarket.

Ron Finley is a food justice advocate in south Los Angeles. In his community “it is easier to get alcohol than an organic apple.”

“A food desert is a place where there is absolutely no chance, opportunity, or hope to get any kind of healthy nutritious food. The food that is distributed in a food desert is sub-par, and often comes from different parts of the world. It is sprayed with toxins and poisons and picked before it’s time. On top of that there is a proliferation of fast food, which a lot of time is the only option residents of these communities have…the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Joel Fuhrman, MD coined the term, “Fast Food Genocide” because most people “don’t understand the depth and breadth of the harm as a large segment of our society eats a diet worse than the sad and dangerous Standard American Diet(SAD)”. Fuhrman cites research showing compared with neighborhoods with access to full service supermarkets, the Years of Potential Life Lost or YPLL for an overweight diabetic living in a zone classified as a food desert is a shocking 45 years!

Having grown up in Southeast San Francisco, I harbor childhood memories of shopping at the cannery with my mother and spending my lunch money on sugar cookies and hard candy at a liquor store near my school. Deeply engraved memories of running out of food stamps before the end of the month and discovering a gallon of spoiled milk in a dark warm refrigerator after PG&E shut off the electricity for non payment.

I was born a low birth weight infant at 5 pounds and was often the smallest — and smartest — child in my elementary school classroom! My low body weight and boundless energy fueled my training as a gymnast and dancer…at the expense of an extremely low body fat.

As a certified clinical nutritionist and physician, I now recognize the relationship between poverty, hunger and obesity linked to fast foods, canned foods and nutritionally deficient calorie rich foods loaded with sugar, salt, corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors. Food deserts are areas where liquor stores, dollar stores and fast food restaurants are major sources of empty calories from sodas, pastries, cookies, chips and wine coolers. Nutritionally inadequate foods linked with poverty and excess death from diseases like type diabetes, cancer, heart disease and low birth weight infants.

Residents living in “food deserts” with reduced availability to fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods. Forced to eat unhealthy canned, fast and processed food, they face seven times higher risk of premature death from stroke, double the risk of heart attack and diabetes and four times the risk of kidney failure.

The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program was funded by the Packard Foundation in October 2019 and licensed by the Medical Board of California as a medical screening clinic in January of 2020. HP Biomonitoring is detecting toxic body burden and deficiencies in essential immune and nutrient elements in screenings conducted on low income residents and workers at a federal Superfund site. Using the Genova Diagnostics Comprehensive Urine Elements Profile screening to detect toxins and nutritional deficiencies in 35 elements, HP Biomonitoring has identified a “Toxic Triangle” of deficiencies that include micro nutrients essential for optimal function of the immune system and thyroid gland that include zinc selenium and copper. Research has proven copper deficiency is linked to increased susceptibility to infection. An improved immune response has been documented when the deficient host is provided with copper supplement. Copper stimulates the immune system to fight infections, repair injured tissue, promote healing and neutralize free radicals that cause severe damage to cells.

Correcting deficiencies in essential immune and nutrient elements is the fundamental first step in mitigating the “perfect storm” of adverse impacts caused by community wide toxic exposures, climate change and the global pandemic.

Additionally, HP Biomonitoring is detecting deficiencies in micro nutrients essential for the physical integrity and neuromuscular function of the human body including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfur.

Manganese is being universally detected in high normal to toxic concentrations in all screenings performed to date on residents and workers within a one mile radius of the federal Superfund system at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Manganese fed to cocks in toxic concentrations led to microscopically detected damage to immune organs. Effects of manganese toxicity on immune related organs of cocks

Genova Diagnostics Toxic Exposure Test/Comprehensive Urine Element Profile screening detects deficiencies in copper, iron, selenium, calcium, magnesium and low normal levels of sulfur, potassium and strontium.
The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program launched in January 2019 as the nations first human biomonitoring program established to offer voluntary urinary toxicology screenings to residents and workers at a federal Superfund site. HP Biomonitoring is detecting toxic body burdens of heavy metals and radioactive elements along with deficiencies in essential immune and nutrient elements.
Worker at the federal Superfund site exposed to piles of contaminated soil with no mask or protective gear. The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program is detecting a high body burden to toxic heavy metals and radioactive elements in male laborers and alarming deficiencies in essential nutrient elements needed to optimize strength and neuromuscular function. These deficiencies often include copper, iron, selenium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfur.
Urinary screening conducted on 40 year old Latino male Hunters Point resident and shipyard worker for over 20 years. Note the high normal level of the radioactive element cesium, nickel in concentrations exceeding normal range and deficiencies in iron, selenium, strontium, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfur.
The toxins being detected by HP Biomonitoring in urinary screenings are chemicals and radioactive elements known to be present in shipyard soils.
Variation in income and population demographics in Bayview Hunters Point. Residents of the Hunters Point hilltop in Hunters View public housing have a median income as low as $22K and a childhood population as high as 39%.

The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program is dedicated to the intersecting priorities of:

  1. Advancing environmental public health through community exposure screenings toward the ultimate goal of establishing a community wide toxic registry.
  2. Identifying social and environmental determinants of health that adversely impact the optimum function of the human immune system in a neighborhood with the second highest case rate for COVID-19 infections.
  3. Advancing HP Biomonitorings’ award winning pioneering geospatial mapping and epidemiological surveys to determine prevalence of community wide toxic exposures to “detect…protect…prevent!”
Geospatial mapping of HP Biomonitorings “South Basin Cluster” where an aggregate of four elements are being detected in toxic concentrations in residents living adjacent to the shipyards South Basin region. The elements include arsenic — red pin, gadolinium — blue pin, manganese — yellow pin and vanadium — white pin.

4. Cross referencing human biomonitoring geospatial mapping with real time particulate air monitoring data generated by the Marie Harrison Bayview Air Monitoring network of ten PM 2.5 micron community air monitors sited at strategic locations throughout the 94124 zipcode.

A system of ten particulate sensing air monitors capable of detecting particle pollution as small as 2.5 microns is being sited at key locations throughout Bayview Hunters Point.

5. Raising the bar on the delivery of high quality, standard of care personalized medicine and offering the nascient science of human biomonitoring in population screenings for the State of Californias’ most high risk community.

6. Simple, reliable, low cost and accessible urinary screenings to detect deficiencies in essential immune, micronutrient and toxic elements performed by a certified laboratory using mass spectrometry.

Medical Director - Golden State MD Health & Wellness. UCSF/Stanford Author & Researcher. PI HP Biomonitoring. Certified Clinical Nutritionist. PoliticoMD!

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