Food deserts: Definition, effects, and solutions
Food deserts are areas in which individuals have limited access to nutritious and inexpensive food due to geographical limitations. This might be due to a lack of financial resources or the need to go further to locate nutritious meal alternatives. People who live in food deserts may be at increased risk for diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease because they lack access to nutritious foods. Multiple government agencies are currently sponsoring efforts to prevent regions from becoming food deserts as well as to enhance people’s access to food in areas that have already been declared food deserts by the USDA.
Areas where individuals have limited access to a range of nutritious foods are referred to as food deserts.
The USDA defines a food desert as an area where the poverty rate is greater than or equal to 20 percent, or where the median family income does not exceed 80 percent of the median family income in urban areas, or 80 percent of the statewide median family income in nonurban areas, as defined by the federal government.
In metropolitan areas, at least 500 persons, or 33 percent of the population, must reside more than one mile from the nearest big food store in order for the requirement to be met.
Between 2000 and 2006, the USDA identified approximately 6,500 food deserts.
11.5 million of these persons have poor incomes, making about a quarter of the total.
- Populations that are either extremely huge or extremely sparse
- Low income
- Significant levels of unemployment
- Insufficient access to transportation
- A small number of food shops that provide fresh produce at a reasonable price
High levels of unemployment, insufficient access to transportation, a small number of food shops offering fresh produce at reasonable rates, and huge or very sparse populations are all factors to consider.
- Consuming a diverse range of foods from all dietary categories while keeping calorie consumption under control, minimizing intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, added sweets, and excess salt is recommended.
Consuming a diverse range of foods from all dietary categories while keeping calorie consumption under control, reducing intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, added sweets, and excess salt is essential.
- A range of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Protein-rich meals, such as:
- Seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, and soy products are all good choices.
It is possible that people who live in food deserts have restricted access to supermarkets and other food shops that sell nutritious and reasonably priced items. Healthful meals are sometimes available in convenience stores and tiny grocery stores; nevertheless, they are frequently out of reach for persons on a fixed budget. People who live in food deserts may consequently be more reliant on food merchants or fast food restaurants that offer a more cheap but limited choice of items to supplement their diet.
As a result, diet-related diseases such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease might occur more frequently. The following are some of the health consequences of living in a food desert:
- It is possible that people who live in food deserts have limited access to supermarkets and other food shops that provide nutritious and reasonably priced items in their area. Healthful meals are sometimes available in convenience stores and tiny grocery stores
- Nevertheless, they are sometimes out of reach for persons on a limited budget. Therefore, those who live in food deserts may be more reliant on food merchants or fast food restaurants, which may provide a more cheap but restricted selection of meals. Sugar, salt, and unhealthful fats may be consumed in large quantities due to a lack of availability to healthy foods and the ease with which fast food may be obtained. A diet-related disorder such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease might result as a result of this behavior. In some cases, living in a food desert can have negative health consequences, including as
It is possible that people who live in food deserts have restricted access to supermarkets and other food shops that provide nutritious and inexpensive items. Even when convenience stores and small grocers carry nutritious items, they are frequently out of reach for individuals on fixed incomes. People who live in food deserts may be more reliant on food merchants or fast food restaurants that provide a more inexpensive but limited choice of meals. Poor diets that are heavy in sugar, salt, and unhealthful fats may be connected to a lack of availability to healthy foods and the ease with which fast food may be obtained.
Living in a food desert has a number of negative health consequences, including the following:
A food swamp is defined as a place that gives ample access to nutritious and inexpensive food while also providing an oversupply of less nutritious food alternatives. Food swamps are more widespread than food deserts in Canadian metropolitan areas, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
A food mirage is a term used to describe a situation in which individuals live in close proximity to grocery shops that provide a range of nutritious foods but are unable to buy such goods. As a result, people must go further to acquire nutritious foods that are also within their financial means.
Food insecurity is defined as having restricted or insecure access to food as a result of a lack of financial resources. Families and individuals with limited financial resources may find it difficult to buy nutritious diets. In the United States, policymakers are actively seeking ways to enhance access to nutritious meals in food deserts around the country. The Community Food Programs Competitive Grant Program provides funding for long-term food projects that assist low-income communities in gaining access to nutritious and culturally appropriate diets and lifestyles.
Among the concerns that the Community Food Projects hope to solve are the following:
- Increasing the availability of nutritious, locally sourced meals by implementing the following strategies:
- Affordably priced grocery stores and marketplaces, as well as backyard and community gardens, as well as food aid programs
- Encouraging healthy eating habits by providing education and training on food production, preparation, and nutrition
- Enrolling eligible residents in government nutrition programs
- Increasing access to local farmers markets
- Promoting safe and fair farm worker conditions
- Supporting sustainable agricultural practices that protect the environment, water supply, and habitats
- Assisting food industry entrepreneurs
- Celebrating and honoring diverse food cultures
- Encouraging resiliency in the face of adversity
The term “food desert” refers to a region where people lack access to nutritious foods. They are a huge problem that affects millions of individuals in the United States and throughout the world. According to experts, those who live in a food desert are at a higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and other weight-related diseases. Community Food Projects are attempting to enhance food systems in areas that are considered food deserts. The overall goal of the organization is to assist in increasing inhabitants’ access to nutritious foods.
Exploring America’s Food Deserts
The Annie E. Casey Foundation published a notice on February 13, 2021.
What is a food desert?
Geographic areas where individuals have few to no easy choices for obtaining economical and healthful meals — particularly fresh fruits and vegetables — are known as food deserts.
Food deserts, which are disproportionately prevalent in high-poverty regions, offer additional, everyday obstacles that can make it more difficult for children, families, and communities to develop healthy and strong.
Where are food deserts located?
Food deserts are more likely in places that have the following characteristics:
- Smaller populations
- Greater rates of abandoned or unoccupied dwellings
- Inhabitants with lower levels of education, lower incomes, and higher rates of unemployment
- And residents with lower levels of education, lower incomes, and higher rates of unemployment
According to a 2014 research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, food deserts are also a disproportionate reality for Black communities in the United States. The study compared census tracts in the United States with similar poverty levels and discovered that, in urban areas, Black communities had the fewest supermarkets, while white communities had the most, and multiracial communities fell in the middle of the supermarket count spectrum, according to the findings.
How are food deserts identified?
When diagnosing food deserts, researchers take a number of criteria into consideration, including:
- Access to food, as measured by the distance between a store and a residence or by the number of stores in a neighborhood
- Resources available to a household, such as family income or the availability of a vehicle
- Resource availability in the area, such as the average income of residents and the availability of public transit
One method used by the United States Department of Agriculture to identify food deserts is to look for census tracts with low income and limited access to food. To go to the nearest supermarket or food shop in low-access census tracts, a considerable proportion of inhabitants (33 percent or more) must drive an unpleasant distance (at least 1 mile in urban areas and 10 miles in rural areas). In low-income census tracts, the local poverty rate is at least 20%, and the median family income is at most 80% of the statewide median family income, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Mapping food deserts in the United States
When the United States Department of Agriculture searches for low-income, low-access census tracts, it can identify food deserts. To go to the nearest supermarket or food store in low-access census tracts, a considerable portion of inhabitants (33 percent or more) must drive an unpleasant distance (at least 1 mile in urban areas and 10 miles in rural areas). Census tracts with a high poverty rate or a median family income that is less than 80 percent of the state’s median family income are considered low-income census tracts.
How many Americans live in food deserts?
According to the USDA’s most recent food access study report, released in 2017, about 39.5 million people — or 12.8 percent of the country’s population — were living in low-income and low-access regions. There were 19 million persons in this category, according to the researchers, accounting for 6.2 percent of the nation’s total population who did not have easy access to a supermarket or grocery store.
Why do food deserts exist?
There is no one cause of food deserts, although there are a number of variables that contribute to their occurrence. Among these are:
- Low-income households are less likely than other families to have dependable transportation, which might prohibit people from going greater distances to shop for goods. Small corner stores, convenience markets, and fast food vendors are more common in low-income neighborhoods, which provide less nutritious food alternatives for residents. An additional risk is associated with the establishment of a supermarket or food store chain, and this risk might develop to prohibitive proportions in low-income communities. As an illustration: Over the course of a month, the spending power of consumers in these neighborhoods — which includes families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — might fluctuate drastically. A business’s insurance expenses and security expenditures might be increased as a result of the prospect of increased crime rates, whether genuine or perceived. Inequality of income – Healthy food is more expensive. The healthiest diets — those consisting primarily of vegetables, fruits, fish, and nuts — were found to be on average $1.50 per day more expensive per day than diets consisting primarily of processed foods, meat, and refined grains, according to a study conducted by researchers from Brown University and Harvard University. Nutritious food may be out of reach for some families that live paycheck to paycheck because of the greater expense of healthy food, even when it is easily available.
How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted food access?
Even more hurdles — both logistical and financial — were introduced into the already complicated sector of food availability as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. Restaurants, corner stores, and food markets, among other businesses, were forced to lock their doors or decrease their operation hours as the number of COVID-19 instances increased across the country. For those who depended on public transit to get food, there were extra obstacles to overcome, including increased travel limits and reduced service schedules.
According to the Brookings Institution’s Fall 2020 food insecurity update, over 10% of parents with just young children — children aged five and under — reported having inadequate food for their family and insufficient means to acquire more food.
What solutions to food deserts can be pursued?
Eating habits and patterns are affected by environmental, policy, and human variables, according to Joel Gittelsohn, a public health specialist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in chronic disease prevention and management. Some techniques for relieving food desert situations exist within this complicated environment, and they are as follows:
- According to Joel Gittelsohn, a public health specialist at Johns Hopkins University, environmental, policy, and individual variables influence eating habits and patterns – both individually and collectively. Food desert alleviation measures may be implemented in a variety of contexts within this complicated environment, including:
Casey Foundation resources on food insecurity and food access
According to Joel Gittelsohn, a public health specialist at Johns Hopkins University, environmental, policy, and individual variables all influence eating habits and patterns – both individually and collectively. Some techniques for relieving food desert situations exist within this complicated terrain, and they are as follows:
What Are Food Deserts?
What you eat, and how much of it you consume, can have a significant influence on your long-term health. Healthy eating habits are essential in the prevention of a wide range of diseases. Healthy eating guidelines have been in place for decades, encouraging families to consume more healthy meals such as fruits and vegetables while avoiding junk or processed foods such as chips and fast restaurant cheeseburgers. Elvis Batiz / Photo courtesy of Flickr However, for many families in the United States, things are not quite so straightforward.
These places, which are referred to as food deserts, are a severe environmental health concern that can have long-term consequences for the lives of families.
Long-term health is greatly affected by what you eat and how much you eat. To avoid a lengthy number of diseases, it is necessary to maintain healthy eating habits. For decades, health professionals have urged families to consume more healthy meals such as fruits and vegetables while avoiding junk or processed foods such as potato chips and fast restaurant cheeseburgers, among other things. Elvis Batiz is a photographer who uses Flickr. It is not, however, so straightforward for many families in the United States.
They are known as food deserts and are a severe environmental health concern that can have long-term effects on the lives of entire communities.
When most public health professionals talk about food deserts, they’re usually talking to metropolitan surroundings – inner cities, for example, where higher land prices might deter many potential grocers from setting up shop there. However, whereas metropolitan regions account for around 82 percent of all food deserts, rural towns are not entirely exempt. As reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), around 335,000 people in the country live more than 20 miles from a supermarket.
Food deserts are more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods, which are often the worst harmed by them.
According to the USDA, over half of all low-income zip codes (i.e., those with a median income of less than $25,000) qualify as food deserts.
Who Lives There
Low-income folks, particularly those who do not have access to a vehicle or who reside in distant rural locations, frequently have the most difficulty obtaining nutritious foods. For these folks, acquiring nutritious foods necessitates a longer drive to obtain them. That is, of course, assuming that driving is even an option at this point. According to the USDA, more than two million households living in food deserts do not have access to a motor vehicle. The cost of groceries is higher for residents of urban food deserts than for households living in the suburbs.
Despite the fact that lower-income families already devote a bigger proportion of their income to food purchases, living in a food desert implies that a salary will not stretch nearly as far as it would in locations where fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are more readily available.
Food deserts are also more likely than other locations to have the following characteristics:
- More minority residents
- Higher rates of unoccupied dwellings
- Higher rates of unemployment
- Lower levels of education among residents
- Smaller population sizes.
Although living in a food desert is not the same as being food insecure, it should be highlighted that they are related. Not everyone who lives in a food desert has difficulty obtaining nutritious meals. It is usually still an option for those who have the means and chance to do so to go to a large supermarket or have goods delivered to their door step. Individuals who live in a food desert do not necessarily have limited access to staples such as whole grains and fresh veggies. In other circumstances, such meals may be accessible, but their high cost makes them prohibitive for some people to purchase.
Impact on Health
Ironically, obesity is the most serious public health risk associated with food deserts. Given the fact that those who don’t have easy access to good foods are more likely to eat less healthfully than those who do, this makes sense. A person’s weight increases as a result of poor eating habits, which in turn leads to obesity. Being considerably overweight or obese raises a person’s risk for a wide range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, among other things.
- Excessive weight may even raise your chance of developing cancer, according to one study, which estimated that 481,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed globally in 2012 as a result of being overweight or obese.
- Aside from obesity, poor eating habits throughout a kid’s first few years of life can have a substantial impact on the ability of the child to develop.
- Nutritional deficiencies in nutrients such as iron, vitamin A, and iodine have been associated to cognitive issues, weakened immune systems, and stunted growth in children and adolescents.
- The chance of having a child born with potentially catastrophic birth abnormalities increases for babies born to mothers who do not obtain enough folate throughout the first trimester of their pregnancy.
- Another issue that is sometimes disregarded when discussing food deserts is the danger they bring to people who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.
- In the United States, around 200,000 people require emergency medical care each year after inhaling or drinking something they are allergic to.
- Even while studies have identified substantial associations between a lack of supermarkets and health problems like as obesity, current research is beginning to suggest that the relationship may be far more convoluted than previously thought.
Low income and low educational attainment have also been associated to obesity outside of the setting of food deserts, and some recent research has suggested that socioeconomic status may be a more relevant factor in nutritional outcomes than access to a grocery store in some situations.
What Can Be Done?
Food deserts have been on the radar of public health departments for some time now, and many have already begun implementing strategies and policies to deliver fresh fruit and other nutritious foods to areas that are currently without access to these resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises numerous ways to address and avoid food deserts, including:
- Creating communal gardens
- Establishing local farmers markets
- And other initiatives Increasing public transit options from food deserts to established markets. Changing municipal laws and tax rules in order to encourage supermarkets and other healthy food shops to open their doors
However, making inexpensive nutritious food more accessible is only one component of the answer. If low-income communities had better access to higher-quality food, according to one estimate, the disparity in nutritional status would be reduced by nine percent. Why? Because while building supermarkets in formerly food desert areas may provide better food alternatives to the community, it does not necessarily result in a shift in people’s food-purchasing behavior. Families that relocate to an area where healthy eating is the norm and where healthy foods are readily available do not suffer from this problem.
- Creating a menu of items that the entire family can like takes time, as many parents will agree, and upsetting that habit will need much more than simply constructing a store nearby.
- Food is a very cultural and personal experience for everyone.
- In order to effect any significant change, nutrition education should be developed with these traditions in mind, while also taking care to respect the deeply ingrained cultural norms that exist in every group, as described above.
- Getting families to join in a community garden, for example, would not be possible in a neighborhood where many adults work several jobs and have little spare time to contribute.
Food Deserts vs. Food Swamps
Following the revelations concerning food deserts, some nutritional gap researchers are moving their attention away from a lack of healthy food alternatives and toward an abundance of bad food options instead. These locations, which have been termed “food swamps,” are not only devoid of grocery shops, but they are also densely packed with fast food restaurants and convenience stores. These locations have been associated to worse diets, and the existence of these places may be an even better predictor of obesity rates than the absence of supermarkets, since the in-your-face availability of bad food alternatives effectively negates any benefits that an increase in grocery shops may provide.
While some communities have focused their efforts on attracting grocery shops, others have attempted to go where people already buy for groceries, encouraging corner stores and petrol stations to devote more shelf space to inexpensive, fresh fruit.
Another option is to put up mobile farmers’ markets that look like food trucks that can be driven out to hard-to-reach places so that locals don’t have to go out of their way to get nutritious foods.
A Word From Verywell
In light of what we now know about food deserts, some nutritional gap researchers are moving their attention away from a lack of good food alternatives and toward an excess of harmful ones. Known as “food swamps,” these regions are not only devoid of grocery shops, but they are also densely packed with fast food restaurants and convenience stores. These locations have been associated to worse diets, and the existence of these places may be an even better predictor of obesity rates than the absence of supermarkets, since the in-your-face availability of bad food alternatives effectively negates any benefits that an increase in grocery shops may provide.
To entice grocery retailers, several communities have attempted to go to where people already buy for groceries, such as corner stores and petrol stations, and encourage them to stock more cheap, fresh food on their shelves.
Critics say it’s time to stop using the term “food deserts”
However, boosting access to good and cheap food extends beyond what is stated in the term. In media stories concerning impoverished communities and their lack of inexpensive healthy eating alternatives for inhabitants, the phrase “food desert” has been thrown around for decades. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study of 40 years’ worth of studies on these topics and discovered that the word originated in Scotland in the 1990s, when a task committee concerned with nutrition inequalities created the concept.
However, in recent years, the phrase has gone out of favor with people.
Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies website, advocating instead for the use of the term “food apartheid,” which means “food segregation.” Many people believe that the methodologies used to determine the designation are flawed or outdated, and that they gloss over both the negatives and the positives of the designation.
It seems that almost everyone wants to see change, not only on paper but also in reality, to better understand what is going on in these areas and, ultimately, to enhance access to nutritious foods.
The phrase has been abandoned by even the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which now refers to places that are low-income (defined, in certain circumstances, as having a poverty rate of 20 percent or above) and low-access (defined as an urban area where 33 percent of the population lives a mile or more from a supermarket).
“Cities can plan for housing, transportation, and economic growth; we should plan for food systems as well,” says the author.
Also included are supermarkets and other large retail stores that are located within the strict boundaries of a given neighborhood; however, alternative food hubs such as farmers markets and community gardens, as well as supermarkets that may technically be located outside of a neighborhood but are located right at its perimeter, are not included in the FARA calculation.
Because people have “resilient food access tactics that are less deficit-focused,” George asserted, “we can find out how to better assist them via policy” by evaluating and recognising these methods, he added.
This is a technique that was recently studied in Providence, Rhode Island, and which researchers say can foster a more textured and nuanced understanding of what assets residents have and don’t have when it comes to providing food for themselves and their families, among other things.
The USDA’s recently updatedThrifty Food Planfor the 48 contiguous states—which is used to determine SNAP benefits and which increased those for a family of four by 21 percent, to $835.57—would also be amended to account for the fact that grocery prices are higher in some areas, which can be a significant barrier to healthy food procurement.
It also discovered that just counting the number of supermarkets inside a neighborhood’s boundaries did not provide a sufficient definition of food access in three designated “food desert” tracts in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Farmers markets, farm stands, CSAs, tiny convenience stores—there are many more retail locations where people can find fresh produce.” When you take all of this into consideration, “you will notice that there isn’t much of a food desert anymore.” “Farmers markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, small convenience stores—there are several retail outlets where individuals may purchase fresh produce.” Due to the fact that some of these stores can be more costly than supermarkets, or at the very least might be viewed as more expensive, Kotval-Karamchandani supports for giving community people with a greater variety of purchasing options.
- One method to do this, according to her, is to encourage large retail chains such as Kroger and Meijer to establish smaller, express versions of their stores in low-income and difficult-to-access regions.
- “We have the authority to zone areas; this is what we do.” The fact that new cities are no longer being constructed from the ground up, however, presents a problem in this regard.
- The assumption is that by taking on less debt at the outset, these merchants will have a higher chance of remaining in business and continuing to provide services to their customers.
- For example, before approving an application for a Super Natural Produce Reading, conversations were held with local partners and residents to ensure that this was a welcome addition to the community.
- The fact that farmers markets accept Double Up Food Bucksto stretch SNAP benefits for produce, and that small stores accept SNAP EBT cards; and the fact that some foods are even considered healthy—are all things that more advocates are beginning to recognize.
- In places with low produce consumption, such as Des Moines, Iowa, programs such as Double Up Food Bucks have been eagerly accepted since they allow one dollar to be stretched into two when purchasing fresh, and typically locally sourced, fruits and vegetables.
- To make up for the remainder, Kotval-Karamchandani said, “What is the most frequent mode of communication—fliers?” Do you want to make a public service announcement on local television?
She has also written for Sierra Magazine, Ensia, and Civil Eats. You may find her online at lelanargi.com. Get a weekly serving of stories, analysis, and insight from those on the front lines of the food movement.
What is a Food Desert?
What is a Food Desert, and how does it differ from a normal food desert? A food desert is defined as a region where it is particularly difficult to obtain fresh, nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They may be found in both urban and rural regions, and they frequently comprise populations of color who are also low-income in nature. Food deserts are regions where access to grocery shops that offer fresh food is difficult due to a lack of public transit or because of a long distance between outlets.
3 Purchasing groceries becomes a challenging undertaking as a result of this.
The lack of availability to healthful foods for the large number of Americans who live in or near a food desert might have significant health repercussions for their overall health.
Factors that Contribute to Food Deserts
In rural areas, nutritious food is difficult to come by due to the distance between grocery stores, which may be up to ten and even twenty miles. The majority of meals are obtained from fast-food restaurants or convenience stores, where many of the goods are highly processed and have a low nutritional content. 7 Transportation: In certain instances, nutritious food may be theoretically available but inaccessible due to transportation issues. Although there may be a food shop close, without access to public transit or a car, 5 miles is not much different from 20 miles.
7 Affordability: Affordability is determined not just by the price of an item, but also by the “price of a specific food and the relative price of alternative or replacement foods.” Consumers’ financial limits have an influence on the affordability of food as well, as they must examine not just the prices of different foods to suit their dietary demands, but also the prices of other essentials.” 4When there are just a few dollars left over after paying for rent, electricity, and transportation to work, the pennies saved by purchasing fruit snacks instead of fruit (or a cheeseburger instead of a salad) become far more precious than they were before.
- Despite the fact that many rural towns are dependent on agriculture, people of those regions may nevertheless be forced to live in a food desert owing to a scarcity of stores that offer fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Specifically, Hispanic people had one-third less access to chain supermarkets than non-Hispanic populations, and lower-income districts had generally less access to chain supermarkets than middle- and upper-income communities, according to the research.
- According to research, high-income areas have more access to healthful food than low-income populations.
- One method that has received a great deal of attention is the establishment of farmers’ markets in these communities.
- Farmers’ markets are advantageous because they may be deliberately placed in areas where people of the community are more likely to congregate to buy their produce.
- 9 In addition, further study revealed that low-income women were increasingly likely to purchase at farmers’ markets if they were closer to their homes and offered pricing that were equivalent to the ones they were used to paying at other stores.
- Mobile markets are made up of buses, trailers, and other similar vehicles that have been converted into food stores.
Making fresh food readily available in under-resourced communities contributes significantly to the solution of the food desert problem in the United States.
New initiatives as well as new stores are being introduced.
The Healthy Food Financing Initiative, for example, was developed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
12 Apart from that, a big number of elected officials have worked hard to change local laws and tax regulations in order to persuade larger corporations to locate stores in these towns.
Full-service grocery shops that provide fresh items at a lesser cost or offer incentives to customers who purchase them operate under this model.
These food cooperatives also provided a number of additional resources to assist those in need of assistance.
Residents may retake control of their health via the use of these specialized programs, which provide them with a more convenient spot to shop for food as well as the skills they need to make more health-conscious decisions in their daily routine.
According to research conducted on urban residents who shop for their goods at smaller local stores, they spend anywhere from 3 percent to 37 percent more for the identical products at supermarkets than people who live in suburban regions.
Because larger grocery shops have greater influence over their revenues, federal, state, and municipal programs are compelled to discover innovative methods to cut costs.
Some local programs went even farther, offering incentives to those who used SNAP benefits to purchase nutritious items.
9 The initiative was effective in that it provided a significant source of money for farmers and resulted in an increase in EBT sales.
Some, on the other hand, might argue that simply increasing supply and decreasing costs isn’t enough.
Education on the components of a healthy diet as well as the reasons why investing the extra time and money to eat better is worthwhile may be necessary in order to observe long-term improvements in community health outcomes.
According to the findings of the study, fruit and vegetable consumption by consumers rose by around one more serving per day.
In a number of MHP Salud’s Community Health Worker Programs, the significance of a healthy diet is emphasized.
The role of the Community Health Worker is to be a trusted member of the community who empowers their peers by educating them and connecting them to health and social services.
Last year, parents and their children who took part inJuntos Podemos saw a huge rise in their intake of fruits and vegetables.
The quantity of time spent exercising by families has also increased, as has the number of children participating.
That Community Health Workers can have such a tremendous impact on communities is evidenced by this study, which also highlights the ramifications of the fact that they are a wonderful alternative when it comes to solving food deserts.
Alternatively, you may send an email to [email protected] requesting further information about MHP Salud, our services, and how we can assist you.
What Is a Food Desert and Why Do Food Deserts Exist?
The phrase “food desert” is said to have been coined in the early 1990s by a resident of a Scottish public housing development. Public health activists, philanthropists, food merchants, and politicians in the United States used the phrase “food desert” in the 2000s, and it was included in the 2008 Farm Bill (the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008), which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Even though the statute instructed the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) to define the word in a report, the concept was never formally adopted into federal legislation.
Food policy specialists, particularly those who have lived in working-class and lower-income communities with limited access to grocery shops and supermarkets, are increasingly dismissive of the phrase “food desert.” According to food justice campaigners in the United States, such as Karen Washington, a more accurate word is “food apartheid.” Food apartheid is a term used to characterize the human-enforced nature of a situation that disproportionately harms Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color due to the way in which food systems are designed and implemented.
Recognition of food apartheid entails the identification of “race and anti-blackness as the core of systemic food and land oppression,” as well a need for social change methods that are “based in organization and direct action,” according to Beatriz Beckford’s WhyHungerin 2015 article.
Concentrating attention on “food deserts,” according to Washingon and other front-line activists, diverts attention away from the core causes of social inequality, such as economic practices that fail to invest in the training and assistance of inhabitants in disadvantaged communities.
What Is a Food Desert?
When the USDA defined food deserts in 2011, it meant that they were areas where: 1. many people were living on low incomes; 2. at least 500 individuals, or one-third of the population, lived more than a mile from a supermarket or grocery store; and 3. many people were living on a fixed income. A census tract might be considered low-income if at least one-fifth of its population were living at or below the poverty line, according to one of the criteria for qualifying. In 2013, the USDA discontinued the use of the phrase “food desert” and instead referred to such areas as “low-income and low-access” communities.
The relationship between food deserts and diet-related chronic illnesses and health inequities has traditionally served as the basis for research into food deserts.
What Is the Difference Between Food Deserts and Food Swamps?
A food swamp is defined as a place with a high concentration of fast food outlets and a low concentration of grocery shops. Rather than focusing on the absence of grocery shops in a neighborhood, the phrase “food swamp” refers to the overabundance of unhealthy food alternatives available in a given area. The word “food swamp,” like the term “food desert,” is a metaphor that depends on the concept of a naturally existing biome to describe a situation. Neither phrase accurately describes the artificial circumstances that exist in communities where people live in poverty and have limited access to inexpensive, healthy meals.
Why Do Food Deserts Exist?
When you hear the term “food swamp,” you’re referring to a place where there are a lot of fast food restaurants but not many groceries. In contrast to the phrase “food desert,” which refers to a shortage of grocery shops, “food swamp” refers to an excess of unhealthy food alternatives in a given neighborhood. The word “food swamp” is a metaphor that, like the term “food desert,” is based on the concept of a naturally occurring biome. It is none of these terms that really describes the artificial circumstances of areas where people live in poverty and have limited access to inexpensive and fresh goods.
Where Are Food Deserts Most Common?
Census tracts with low income and limited access to grocery stores were concentrated in the South, according to a USDA analysis of 2015 data: Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, South Carolina (including North Carolina), Texas (including Oklahoma), and New Mexico (including New Mexico and Arkansas). Most of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the largest proportion of such census tracts were likewise clustered in the southern and southwestern United States, with the exception of Muskegon, Michigan, which came in sixth with a 38 percent share.
How Many Food Deserts Are There in the U.S.?
Census tracts with low income and limited access to grocery stores were concentrated in the South, according to a USDA analysis of 2015 data: Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, South Carolina (including North Carolina), Texas (including Oklahoma), and New Mexico (including New Mexico). Aside from Muskegon, Michigan, which came in sixth with 38 percent of such census tracts, the top 10 metropolitan areas with the largest proportion of such census tracts were likewise clustered in the South and Southwest.
How Many Americans Live in Food Deserts?
According to USDA researchers, in 2015, there were an estimated 39.4 million persons living in census tracts where large segments of the population were poor and also lived a long distance from a grocery store.
What Are the Impacts of Food Deserts?
Whenever full-service grocery store operators determine that it is not economically sustainable to operate in a low-income community, residents confront greater transportation hurdles to get the produce that was previously available in that neighborhood. When supermarket owners pull out of communities, residents who are left with little retail access to fresh fruits and vegetables may be forced to rely on convenience stores, which are predominantly stocked with highly processed goods that are low in nutritious value.
Food Desert Facts
- In 2014, the Farm Bill launched the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a government initiative that finances supermarket construction in low-income communities. Democrat members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate introduced legislation (H.R. 1313 and S. 203) to subsidize the construction of supermarkets and food banks, as well as the operation of temporary food providers (such as mobile markets and farmers markets) in food deserts, in February 2021.
What Are the Possible Solutions For Food Deserts?
Food deserts may be addressed in a number of ways, one of which is to cease referring to the problem as “food deserts” and instead refer to it as “food apartheid.” As Malik Yakini demonstrates in a video for the 2020 Center for Nutrition Studies, the term “food desert” has various flaws that should be avoided. In contrast to the word “food desert,” which refers to a lack of food retail establishments in a town, the term “desert” refers to a flourishing environment. The alternative is a description of “food apartheid” by Dara Cooper, which outlines the “systematic eradication of Black self-determination to govern our food,” predatory marketing techniques, and a “racist, corporate-controlled food system” among other things.
- According to Forman, authorities must seek “community involvement and community control in growing, procuring, and marketing nutritious food” in order to redress the disparities caused by food apartheid.
- The study of famines in developing nations, which happened despite the abundance of food made available by the Green Revolution, sparked the idea of food access as a policy issue in the 1970s.
- While the Green Revolution is celebrated for its technological advances in the mass production of food, it is also remembered for introducing industrial agricultural techniques such as monocropping, herbicides, and fertilizers into food systems across the world.
- Food access is related to broad and highly political questions, according to the review.
People enrolled in programs such as food stamps (SNAP) might also benefit from increases in benefits, and policymakers should step up efforts to make school lunch and breakfast programs completely free.
Where Do We Go From Here?
A food desert is a low-income community that lacks supermarkets or grocery shops. Because of the difficulties in obtaining inexpensive, fresh produce and healthful meals in these areas, these neighborhoods are frequently seen as less desirable locations to reside. This lack of a supermarket is also a symptom of a larger problem that has been described by Beatriz Beckford as “a system of food apartheid in black and brown communities across the country, such as the Bronx, New York, Jackson, Mississippi, and Baltimore, Maryland, where politically sanctioned redlining restricts access to healthy food” (Beckett, 2009).
Finally, expanding access to nutritious food is a multi-issue concern that crosses the boundaries of public health, food access, and other social justice movements, and it entails addressing injustices that have arisen as a result of colonization, racism, and other systems of oppression.