In recognition of the problem with the term “food desert,” which according to the USDA is defined primarily by proximity to food providers without taking into account other factors such as racism, cost of living, people being time and cash poor, cultural appropriateness of available foods, people’s ability to grow their own foods and so on, the Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) has developed a model that takes into account all of these factors.
Food Apartheid and Food Oppression are more appropriate phrases, according to the Food and Environment Project, but because food desert is the term that is most widely used, we have chosen to use it as our title.
The Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture recently issued a report for Congress that found that 2.3 million persons (or 2.2 percent of all US families) live more than one mile distant from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle.
However, economic forces have driven grocery stores out of many cities in recent years, making them so few and far between that a single person’s food shopping trip may require taking multiple buses or trains.
As demonstrated by the Food Empowerment Project’s study, “Shining a Light on the Valley of Heart’s Delight(PDF),” it is easy to ignore towns that are located in food deserts when depending solely on statistics gathered by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Thus, a municipality with no supermarket and just two corner grocery stores that sell booze and food would be considered to have two retail food outlets, even though the variety of foods served may be relatively restricted and consist primarily of fast food.” Residents of food deserts may also have difficulty locating foods that are culturally appropriate for them, and dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance, gluten allergies, and other food sensitivities, may limit the food options available to those who do not have access to larger chain stores that offer a wider variety of foods and ingredients.
In addition, research have indicated that urban residents who shop for food at small neighborhood businesses spend between 3 and 37 percent more than suburbanites who shop for the same things at supermarkets, depending on the commodity.
For example, whereas the total price of fruits and vegetables in the United States climbed by over 75% between 1989 and 2005, the overall price of fatty meals decreased by more than 26% during the same period.
While unhealthy eating may be more cost-effective in the short term, the long-term consequences of limited access to healthy foods are one of the primary reasons that ethnic minorities and low-income populations have statistically higher rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related conditions than the general population in the United States.
Only twenty years ago, type 2 diabetes was almost unknown among those under the age of 40.
Among recent years, the incidence of type 2 diabetes has increased across all demographic groups; however, the highest increases have been seen in black and brown populations.
These are also the populations that are most likely to live in food deserts, and studies have shown a clear link between food insecurity and an increase in the number of people who develop diabetes.
In order to explain this discrepancy, researchers emphasize that the high-calorie foods that are most readily available in food deserts put residents living in these areas at greater risk for diabetes in the first place, and that having limited access to healthy foods also makes it more difficult for them to manage diabetes once they are diagnosed with the disease.
One of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease is a diet rich in unhealthy fats and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is characterised by the sorts of food that are typically accessible in food desert areas.
As a result of the higher incidence of obesity in food desert regions, even children and adolescents living in those areas are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (both now and when they reach maturity), according to the American Heart Association.
As part of the “Let’s Move” campaign to address childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama has set a goal of eliminating food deserts by 2017, with a $400 million government investment centered on granting tax benefits to supermarkets that establish in low-income neighborhoods as a part of the program.
Chicago– In food deserts, more than 500,000 persons (most of whom are African-American) live, and an additional 400,000 live in communities where there are a disproportionate number of fast food businesses and no grocery stores nearby.
Along with offering fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, bulk whole grains and beans, and soy-based meat substitutes, some of these stores (such as Fresh Family Foods, located on the city’s South Side) also provide cooking and nutrition classes to educate the public about making nutritious food choices.
- Because fewer fast food restaurants were available, there was a greater demand for more and better food options.
- So far, these measures have been successful in bringing the first new grocery to South L.A.
- New York City is a city that has a lot of things to offer.
- Increased rents and shrinking profit margins have caused supermarkets throughout New York City to close in recent years.
- Since 2008, the city has been operating its Green Carts initiative, which has been distributing inexpensive fresh fruits and vegetables to impoverished communities while also offering employment opportunities for vendor participants.
- What can I do if I live in an area where there is no access to food?
- To begin, it’s a good idea to talk about alternative choices, such as producing your own food or collaborating with local businesses to provide healthy, vegan meals.
You can also contact out to others who have worked on this subject if you want to learn more.
The Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture published a report in 2009 titled Bryan provided this information on August 25, 2017.
“Neighborhood features linked with the location of food shops and food service establishments,” by K., S.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published its first issue in January 2002, with pages 23-29.
(Robert D.) (editor).
173.ttp: The following URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=NAcmSchlTOYC pg=PA173 lpg=PA173 dq=It+has–been+shown.
The date is June 12, 2008.
The LaSalle Bank commissioned the research.
” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2 diabetes: Causes.” CDC National Center for Health Statistics.
and Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2011 Diabetes Fact Sheet from the Mayo Clinic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of newly diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is increasing among children and teenagers.
According to a report published on December 6, 2017, the number of newly diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is increasing among children and teenagers.
Basics was accessed on the 6th of December, 2017.” The American Diabetes Association has a website.
“Bringing Healthy Fare to Big-City ‘Food Deserts.’ Diabetes Predictions for December 2009.
and Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.
Publications of the Harvard School of Public Health, 2015.
The Office of Minority Health.
lvlid=19(3/05/11) The Office of Minority Health.
Obesity.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in 2008 titled “Everyone took a stand.” The White House Blog, published on February 20, 2010.
“Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago,” a research project in which The study was commissioned by LaSalle Bank and completed in 2006.
“Would a Walmart be able to alleviate the food insecurity issues in West Oakland and Nashville?” The Los Angeles Times, 5 October 2010.
The New York Times, August 12, 2008.
The New York Times published an article on January 15, 2011.
A report published in The New York Times on March 20, 2009, with the sq=food percent 20deserts st=cse(4/02/11).
“Measuring food deserts in New York City’s low-income areas,” New York City Department of City Planning, 2008.
“Measuring food deserts in New York City’s low-income communities.” Page 697 to 700 in Health Place, March 2011. Vol. 17(2), page 697 to 700. Jeff. “Can other cities follow New York’s lead in introducing vegetable carts into food deserts?” The New York Times published an article on March 11, 2010.
What Is a Food Desert? Causes, Statistics, & Resources
It is recognized that the term “food desert,” as defined by the USDA, does not adequately account for other factors such as racism, the cost of living, people’s lack of time and money, the cultural appropriateness of the foods available, and the ability to grow one’s own food, among others. The Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people through the cultivation of food. Food oppression and food apartheid are more appropriate phrases, according to the Food & Environment Project, but because food desert is the term that is most widely used, we have chosen to use it as our title for the sake of consistency.
According to a report provided for Congress by the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, about 2.3 million persons (or 2.2 percent of all US families) live more than one mile distant from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle.
However, economic forces have driven grocery stores out of many cities in recent years, making them so few and far between that an individual’s food shopping trip may require taking several buses or trains to get there.
The paper “Shaking a Light on the Valley of Heart’s Delight(PDF)” by the Food Empowerment Project demonstrates that when depending on statistics collected by the United States government, it is possible to ignore populations that are located in food deserts.
Thus, a municipality with no supermarket and just two corner grocery stores that sell booze and food would be considered to have two retail food outlets, even though the variety of foods supplied may be quite restricted and consist primarily of junk food.” The food choices available to those who live in food deserts may be limited as a result of dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance or gluten allergies, among other things.
- People who do not have access to larger chain stores with a wider variety of foods may also find it difficult to find foods that are culturally appropriate for them.
- When compared to unhealthful meals, healthier options are typically more expensive, which is especially true in food deserts.
- The increased cost of nutritious foods, on the other hand, frequently puts them out of reach for individuals on lower incomes, despite the fact that food inflation has stretched the food budgets of many families regardless of their financial situation.
- Twenty years ago, type 2 diabetes was essentially nonexistent among persons under the age of 40.
- In recent years, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has increased across all demographic groups; however, the highest increases have been seen in black and brown populations.
- Additionally, these are the groups most likely to live in food deserts, and studies have found a clear link between food insecurity and an increase in the number of people who develop diabetes.
In order to explain this discrepancy, researchers emphasize that the high-calorie foods that are most readily available in food deserts put residents living in these areas at greater risk for diabetes in the first place, and that having limited access to healthy foods makes it more difficult for them to manage diabetes once they have been diagnosed with the disease.
- Diets heavy in unhealthy fats and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, such as the sorts of food typically found in food deserts, are one of the most significant contributors to cardiovascular disease.
- As a result of the higher incidence of obesity in food desert regions, even children and adolescents living in those areas are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (both now and when they become adults).
- As part of the “Let’s Move” program to battle kid obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama has set a goal of eliminating food deserts by 2017, with a $400 million government investment centered on granting tax advantages to supermarkets that establish in low-income neighborhoods.
- Chicago– In food deserts, more than 500,000 inhabitants (most of them are African-American) live, and an additional 400,000 live in areas where there are a disproportionate number of fast food outlets and no grocery shops in the immediate vicinity.
Along with offering fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, bulk whole grains and legumes, and soy-based meat alternatives, some of these supermarkets (such as Fresh Family Foods on Chicago’s South Side) also provide cooking and nutrition seminars to educate the public about choosing good food choices.
- Los Angeles City Council enacted a ban on new fast food establishments in a 32-square-mile zone that encompasses some of the city’s most dry food deserts, an area in which around 97% of the population is either Latino, African-American, or of mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- So far, these measures have been successful in bringing the first new grocery to South Los Angeles in more than a decade to the neighborhood.
- It is estimated that 750,000 people in New York City live in food deserts, and that around three million people live in areas where fresh produce outlets are scarce or far away.
- However, the disappearance of urban grocery stores has had the greatest impact on low-income communities, particularly those that are predominantly African-American (such as East/Central Harlem and Northern/Central Brooklyn).
- In food deserts, hundreds of Green Carts have already been deployed, and the number is constantly expanding as potential vendors complete training, receive licenses, and obtain local approvals.
- As soon as you discover that you live in a food desert, you may begin by educating individuals in your community about what this entails and brainstorming ideas for how to make a positive difference.
- Bringing your thoughts and concerns to the attention of policymakers—city council members, state lawmakers, and so on—is equally vital.
You can get in touch with us if you’re interested in utilizing the Food Empowerment Project’s survey, which served as the foundation for our study “Shaking a Light on the Valley of Heart’s Delight(PDF).” References: “Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences” is the title of a paper published in the journal Food Research and Technology.
- Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- A study of neighborhood features linked with the placement of food stores and food service establishments was published in the journal “Neighborhood Characteristics Associated with the Location of Food Stores and Food Service Establishments” by K.
- Wing et al.
- 22(1), pages 23-29), the authors discuss Robert D.
- In Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity, published by The MIT Press in 2007, p.
- (3/05/11) “It Isn’t Just Genetics,” says Bryan Walsh.
Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago is a paper written by Mari.
statistics on the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents in the United States from 2003 to 2006 2 diabetes: Causes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2 diabetes: Causes.” CDC National Center for Health Statistics, 2010.
on the 17th of April, 2017 Newly diagnosed instances of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are on the rise among children and teenagers, according to data obtained on December 06, 2017.
Association for Type 2 Diabetes (A2D).
“Bringing Healthy Fare to Major City’s ‘Food Deserts.'” November 2009: Diabetes Predictions.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Truth About Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the In-Between,” May 2010.
In 2015, Harvard Health Publications published an article on the topic.
lvlid=19(3/05/11) lvlid=19(3/05/11) The Office of Minority Health.
Estimates of the population are presented in “QuickFacts: Population Estimates.” As of July 1, 2016 according to the United States Census Bureau.
The LaSalle Bank commissioned the study, which was conducted in 2006.
“Would a Walmart be able to alleviate the food insecurity issues in West Oakland and Nashville?
In the year 2010, the Almanac of the City of Los Angeles was released.
A fast food intervention is staged in Los Angeles.
sq=food percent 20deserts st=cse(4/02/11) sq=food percent 20deserts st=cse(4/02/11) sq=food percent 20deserts sq=food percent 20deserts sq=food percent 20deserts sq=food percent 20deserts sq=food percent 20deserts sq=food percent ‘In South Los Angeles, New Fast-Food Spots Get a ‘No, Thank You,'” Jennifer Medina writes in her piece.
(4/02/11) “Fresh Food for Urban Deserts” is the title of the project.
“Going to Market: New York City’s Neighborhood Grocery Store and Supermarket Shortage,” a report by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, was published in April.
C., Purciel-Hill, M., and colleagues Vol. 17(2), pages 696-700 in Health Place, March 2011. Jeff. “Can other cities follow New York’s lead in bringing veggie carts to food deserts?” According to the New York Times, the 11th of March, 2010.
Food Desert: Definition, Causes, and Statistics
There are a variety of options available to persons who live in food deserts in order to assist them get nutritious foods. It is critical to first identify the fundamental reasons of this problem before proceeding to investigate those resources.
Food Desert Definition
Food deserts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are “areas where people lack inexpensive access to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other items that make up the entire spectrum of a nutritious diet.” The operative term in that description is “access,” which can be hampered or limited by a variety of circumstances, including poverty, geographic location, time constraints, and the capacity to travel to a retail establishment.
The particular criteria for what constitutes a food desert might differ from one region to the next.
Individual barriers: A person’s own unique restrictions that may prevent them from accessing healthy food, such as not enough time in their schedule or a lack of necessary funds to purchase food.
Neighborhood indicators: Factors such as the availability of dependable and affordable public transit, as well as whether or not the average neighborhood income is near or below the poverty line, are taken into consideration.
The United States Department of Agriculture publishes a useful atlas that can assist visitors in identifying food deserts around the country. If we take the state of Ohio as an example, there are clusters of what may be termed food deserts in and around large cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, as well as in and around smaller cities and villages throughout the state. The existence of food deserts, despite the number of stores and services in big cities, is still a possibility because customers lack the financial means to purchase nutritious foods.
As a result, food deserts are a problem that affects people all around the country, not only in rural or low-population areas.
Despite the fact that these deserts are bordered by places that are not classified as deserts by the USDA, those who live in these locations may not have the capacity to travel to areas where food is readily accessible.
According to the USDA, little more than 6 percent of the population of the United States lives in “low-income and poor access areas” that are more than one mile or ten miles from a grocery store. Furthermore, according to the USDA, 9.2 percent of people residing in the United States do not have access to a personal car of their own. Important to know about food deserts is that they have been shown to be associated with poor nutrition outcomes. In situations where individuals do not have access to nutritious meals, for whatever reason, they may resort to harmful alternatives such as fast food restaurants.
This can be most noticeable in food deserts, as the name implies. Individuals who have inadequate nutrition may also be at greater risk for developing other major health disorders, such as heart disease and cancer.
Resources for Individuals Living in Food Deserts
Despite growing public awareness of food deserts and the potential harm they can cause, creating long-term remedies is not an easy task. Nonetheless, there are steps that may be taken to assist.
Nutrition Education Resources
Individuals living in food deserts may benefit from learning about the advantages of maintaining appropriate nutrition. Additionally, persons who have spent a large portion of their life in food deserts may be unaware of the proper methods for maintaining a nutritious diet. In addition to providing a list of health and nutrition suggestions that might be beneficial to individuals who live in food deserts, Healthline also provides an online resource for persons who live in food deserts. Individuals who live in food deserts can accomplish a variety of objectives, such as avoiding consuming sugary drinks, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and engaging in regular exercise, despite the fact that they may not have regular access to nutritious food.
Grocery Shopping and Diet Planning
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States provides a variety of tools to assist persons in maintaining healthy nutrition. Tips for Making Healthier Food Selections While Food Shopping, issued by the FDA, include examining serving sizes, balancing calories, and selecting canned or frozen veggies, which may be less expensive than fresh fruits and vegetables, among other things. Susannah Sneider, writing for U.S. News & World Report, also highlights numerous methods that might help folks save money while grocery shopping, including how to use coupons.
Exercise and Fitness
Individuals who live in food deserts may find it difficult to refrain from consuming unhealthy foods. However, there are still methods for people to exercise and work in order to maintain their health. Physical activity, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, can help people regulate their weight, lose fat, relieve stress, and do a variety of other things. Given that living in a food desert might raise the chance of developing health problems such as diabetes, exercise can be beneficial in this situation as well.
Resources for Communities and Organizations
Food desert residents who lack the money or skills to get good and nutritious food have a significant chance to be helped by their communities and organizations, according to the USDA.
Helping Those in Poverty Find Food
In some cases, people who live in food deserts may already be registered in or be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, depending on their income level (SNAP). Those with limited financial resources might benefit from this program, which gives monies to be utilized for food purchases. A research, according to the HealthyPeople.govwebsite, “showed that a little financial incentive enhanced the usage of SNAP benefits in participating farmers markets, resulting in improved access to nutritious foods.” This sort of approach was effective in addressing the special challenge of lower-income folks who, despite their wish to eat more nutritiously, may not have the financial means to acquire such food products.
Additionally, food banks and pantries are valuable resources for individuals who live in food deserts since they may supply nutritional foods to those in need.
Healthy food may be donated and delivered to residents’ homes by organizations such asMeals on Wheels and Food Rescue US for individuals who are unable to get to sites where healthy meals are sold.
Increasing Access to Healthy Foods
A number of services are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that can assist people who live in food deserts in increasing their access to healthful foods. Improved quality, variety, and quantity of healthier foods and drinks at existing establishments; and promoting and marketing healthier foods and beverages to consumers are all examples of healthier food retail (HFR) programs. Additional initiatives mentioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include increasing access to healthier foods in smaller stores, developing transportation options to allow people to travel to food locations, and developing development guidelines for mobile retailers of healthy foods.
Educating Individuals About the Importance of Nutritious Eating
The USDA’s National Institute on Food and Agriculture offers the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which is administered by the National Institute on Food and Agriculture (EFNEP). It is the goal of this program “to provide knowledge to participants in order to assist their efforts toward self-sufficiency, nutritional health, and well-being.” It appears that the initiative has assisted people in “improving their diets, improving their nutrition habits, stretching their food dollars farther, handling food more safely, and increasing their physical activity levels,” according to the statistics.
Additionally, SNAP-Ed is an instructional resource that assists consumers in understanding the advantages of healthy eating, as well as how to help SNAP beneficiaries make the most of their available funding resources.
Stop Food Deserts and Ensure Healthy Eating
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program is provided by the USDA’s National Institute on Food and Agriculture (EFNEP). This program “makes use of knowledge to assist participants’ efforts toward self-sufficiency, nutritional health, and overall well-being,” according to the website. According to the statistics, the initiative has assisted consumers in “improving their diets, improving their nutrition habits, stretching their food dollars farther, handling food more safely, and increasing their physical activity levels,” among other things.
The State SNAP-Ed Programspage provides information on where to find state programs.
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.
While there is no universally accepted definition, food deserts are typically understood to be areas where inhabitants do not have easy access to inexpensive nutritional foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as other staples. As a substitute for grocery shops or farmers’ markets, these regions frequently feature convenience stores and petrol stations with minimal shelf space available for healthy selections, making nutritious meals practically unattainable for many families that live in these neighborhoods.
- People’s ability to get healthy food selections might be hindered by a lack of financial and other resources (such as transportation).
- It is likely that the neighbor who drives frequently will have more alternatives when it comes to grocery shopping than his neighbor next door.
- After all, $50 worth of packaged meals and frozen dinners may frequently provide a family with a supper that lasts longer than $50 worth of fresh veggies and lean proteins.
- A food desert might be difficult to define precisely because of this.
- If you live more than 0.5 or one mile away from a supermarket, grocery store, or other sources of healthy, inexpensive food, you live in a food desert.
- Beyond geographic proximity, the department considered additional considerations such as low-income status and availability of a car.
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?
Ironically, obesity is the most serious health risk associated with food deserts. Given the fact that those who don’t have easy access to healthful foods are more likely to eat unhealthily than those who do, this makes sense. Weighing too much and becoming obese are both consequences of poor eating habits. Having a considerable amount of body fat raises a person’s risk for developing a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Obesity during pregnancy might increase your risk of developing issues such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, birth abnormalities, and miscarriage, among others.
- The consequences might be seen for years to come, as children of fat parents are more likely than other children to become obese.
- Early infancy is a time of rapid brain and body development, which necessitates the consumption of specific nutrients.
- In addition to nutrition for children, there are other considerations to consider: The chance of having a child born with potentially catastrophic birth abnormalities is increased in babies born to women who do not obtain enough folate during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- The risk presented to persons with dietary restrictions and food allergies is another sometimes disregarded worry concerning food deserts.
- In the United States, around 200,000 people require emergency medical treatment each year after ingestion of or drinking something they are allergic to.
- Even though studies have identified substantial associations between a lack of supermarkets and health concerns like as obesity, current research is beginning to indicate 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 cases.
- 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
Understanding that every community is unique and, as a result, will require a unique combination of measures for solving both food deserts and food swamps is critical to effectively addressing both. It may seem nice in principle, but opening a food shop in every community may prove to be unfeasible or unneeded in fact, depending on the circumstances. Helping families find nutritious, cheap, and practical meals will necessitate the development of novel solutions, but it is critical to the preservation and improvement of the health of communities for future generations.
Exploring America’s Food Deserts
The Annie E. Casey Foundation published a notice on February 13, 2021.
What is a food desert?
The Annie E. Casey Foundation published a statement on February 13, 2021.
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
The Food at Home study by Enterprise Community Partners is the source of this information.
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
Among the issues addressed in theKids, Families, and COVID-19KIDS COUNT ®policy study are pandemic pain points such as an increase in food poverty across the country. Casey Foundation-funded report Food at Home examines the possibility of utilizing inexpensive housing as a platform to solve nutritional issues. Among the topics covered in the booklet are food deserts and their impact on communities around the United States. According to a September 2019 Data Snapshot, there are many actions that leaders may take to assist families living in high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhoods to succeed.
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?
According to a CNBC study published in August 2020, the absence of supermarkets in low-income, mostly Black areas may be related to an increase in automobile production, a shortage of urban housing, and the creation of suburban housing tracts in the 1960s, among other factors. The construction of the United States’ interstate highway system in the 1950s resulted in a “more than twofold” increase in the number of supermarkets. Anti-Black housing regulations also contributed to a phenomena known as “white flight,” in which white families relocated to the suburbs and barred persons of color from purchasing or renting property in those areas.
During the 1980s, governmental and private bankers shied away from investing in impoverished urban districts, while at the same time industrial employment were being relocated to rural areas and other nations.
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.?
USDA scientists found that in 2015, there were 9,245 census tracts in the United States (12 percent) that satisfied the criterion of both high poverty and limited access to food stores, which is a typical approach to designate food deserts, according to their calculations.
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.