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.
Rural towns are those that are more than 10 or 20 miles away from a supermarket, grocery store, or other sources of healthful, affordable food. 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. Even while food insecurity is a very real problem that affects people everywhere, it is particularly prevalent in food deserts.
Impact on Health
Although living in a food desert is not the same as being food insecure, it should be underlined that they are not the same thing. Some residents of food deserts do have access to nutritious foods, but not all of them are. It is usually still an option for those who have the means and chance to do so to go to a large shop or have goods delivered to their doorsteps. Individuals who live in a food desert do not necessarily have limited access to nutritious foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Despite the fact that food insecurity is more prevalent in food deserts, it is not restricted to them.
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.
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.
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.
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The date is June 12, 2008.
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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.
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“Bringing Healthy Fare to Big-City ‘Food Deserts.’ Diabetes Predictions for December 2009.
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“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.
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“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.
Food Deserts: Causes, Effects, and Solutions
Food deserts are places where residents have limited access to nutritious, inexpensive meals ( 1 ,2). Food deserts, also known as healthy food priority regions, are concentrated in low-income and historically disadvantaged areas throughout the United States, with the majority of them located in low-income and historically marginalized communities ( 1 ,2,3, 4 ). Food deserts are areas where healthful foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, peas, beans, meat, and fish are either prohibitively costly or impossible to get.
Food deserts are discussed in this article, including their causes, health consequences, and proposed solutions.
Public policy and economic activities that are rooted in systemic racism are frequently implicated in this phenomenon.
In low-income and historically marginalized communities, problems such as food poverty, social determinants of health, racial residential segregation, and limited access to transportation are all variables that contribute to health inequalities ( 1 , 7 ,8,9).
Apartheid is a system of racial segregation that is enforced. “Food apartheid,” on the other hand, is a newly coined phrase that seeks to address the underlying causes of insufficient access to good, nutrient-dense foods by communities of color and low-income white individuals. A growing number of food activists such as Karen Washington, Malik Yakini, and Dara Cooper think that this word more appropriately describes the systematic racism and health disparities that exist in a corporate-controlled food system.
For example, the phrase “desert” conjures up images of a natural, desolate area, and the notion that expanding the number of food shops is a rapid remedy is promoted.
A better approach is to address the underlying causes of bad food environments and health inequities in mostly low-income communities of color, which is known as “food apartheid.”
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 17.4 million American families were food insecure in 2014, according to their estimations (9). Food security is defined as the availability of adequate healthy foods to all people at all times, both physically and economically. It is food insecurity that happens when this access is disturbed or constrained (10). Temporary food insecurity, such as running out of food for a day or two, can lead to long-term food insecurity as demonstrated by chronic poverty and limited access to food (10).
Food insecurity is 2.5 times as prevalent among low-income groups living in food deserts than it is in the general population (9).
Social determinants of health
The social determinants of health are elements that are out of your control, such as access to healthcare or transportation, and that have an impact on your overall health and well-being. These elements have a significant influence in the development of food deserts (11). Income, community infrastructure, and access to supermarkets are all factors that impact the availability of nutritious meals. Other socioeconomic determinants of health that may play a role in the development of food deserts include as follows (1, 8, 11, 12):
- Education, employment, and job training, socioeconomic status and concentrated poverty, access to healthcare, access to local food markets and fresh produce, access to transportation, racial segregation, and public safety are all important considerations.
Food deserts are characterized by health inequalities that include high prevalence of chronic illnesses among historically marginalized and low-income populations, as well as high incidence of obesity and diabetes ( 1 ,2, 7 ,11).
Low-income neighborhoods contain a disproportionately large number of Black and Latino people, who are disproportionately disadvantaged by inadequate food availability ( 1 , 7 ,9). It has been demonstrated repeatedly that racial segregation places historically underprivileged communities, notably Black people, in economically depressed neighborhoods ( 7 ,9). In 2016, as compared to the national average, Black families were two times more likely to be food insecure, and Hispanic households had a higher incidence of food insecurity than other ethnic groups in the United States (9).
Transportation and proximity to supermarkets
The distance between supermarkets in food deserts is greater than the distance between supermarkets in affluent communities ( 7 , 12 ). Furthermore, mostly Black and Hispanic communities have fewer supermarkets and local food markets — which generally offer inexpensive and healthy produce — than predominantly white neighborhoods, according to the Urban Institute ( 1 ,6, 7 ,9, 12 ,13). Families in food deserts, as a result, do not have equitable access to the nutritious foods that are available to white and affluent neighborhoods (6).
- Essentially, food deserts are a result of food apartheid, and its underlying causes include food instability, racial segregation, closeness to supermarkets, access to transportation, and a variety of other socioeconomic variables.
- The number of food insecure families in the United States was projected to be 71.4 million in 2014, with 31.6 percent of low-income households experiencing food insecurity in 2016.
- It is possible to view an interactive map showing food insecurity, socioeconomic circumstances, and proximity to supermarkets on the Food Environment Atlas, which was established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (14).
- However, only Nevada, New York, and Rhode Island saw a significant increase in the percentage of households experiencing very low food insecurity (14).
- Residents of the United States’ Southwest, Midwest, Northwest, and Florida regions have limited access to grocery shops, but families without access to a car and limited food availability are more typical in the Northeast and Southeast (14).
- Overall, food deserts are projected to be common throughout the United States.
- Diet and nutrition have a significant impact in the development of chronic illness (15, 16 ).
- Reduced availability to inexpensive, healthful meals among low-income and food-insecure areas adds to poor nutrition and maintains health inequities, resulting in increased incidence of obesity and other chronic diseases among these populations ( 1 , 7 ,9,13,15, 16 ,17, 18 ).
People with chronic conditions who live in food deserts may become trapped in a vicious cycle in which they rely on convenience stores and corner stores, which typically sell pricey items with little nutritional value, thus reducing their ability to purchase nutritious foods in the future ( 18 ).
Understanding food deserts as a kind of food apartheid not only tackles their underlying causes, but it also calls into question the quality of the remedies that are frequently offered as a result.
Simply expanding access to low-cost food does not result in more equitable access to inexpensive and nutritious foods for everybody (13).
Maintaining a focus on the fact that significant structural and policy reforms are required in order to achieve equitable food access Nonetheless, you may begin working on community-based solutions to enhance access to inexpensive healthful foods in food deserts as early as today ( 7 , 20 ).
The distance between supermarkets in food deserts is greater than the distance between supermarkets in more prosperous communities ( 7 , 12 ). As a result of this, largely Black and Hispanic areas have fewer supermarkets and local food markets – which generally provide inexpensive and healthy produce — than predominantly white ones ( 1 ,6, 7 ,9, 12 ,13). Families in food deserts, as a result, do not have equitable access to the nutritious foods that are accessible in white and affluent neighborhoods (6).
- Essentially, food deserts are a result of food apartheid, and its underlying causes include food instability, racial segregation, proximity to supermarkets, access to transportation, and a variety of other socioeconomic variables.
- The number of food insecure families in the United States reached 71.4 million in 2014, with 31.6 percent of low-income households experiencing food insecurity in 2016.
- In the Food Environment Atlas, which was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), users may view an interactive map that displays information on food insecurity, socioeconomic circumstances, and proximity to supermarkets (14).
- However, only Nevada, New York, and Rhode Island experienced a significant increase in the percentage of households experiencing very low food insecurity (14).
- Residents of the United States’ Southwest, Midwest, Northwest, and Florida regions have limited access to supermarkets, but households without access to a car and with limited food availability are more frequent in the Northeast and Southeast (14).
- Overall, food deserts are expected to be ubiquitous across the United States.
- Long-term health problems are largely influenced by diet and nutrition (15, 16 ).
Reduced availability to inexpensive, healthful meals among low-income and food-insecure populations contributes to poor nutrition and maintains health inequities, resulting in greater incidence of obesity and other chronic diseases among these communities ( 1 , 7 ,9,13,15, 16 ,17, 18 ).
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of death in this group ( 7 , 18 ).
Overall, food insecurity is connected with increased prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer among low-income and historically oppressed populations.
Food deserts are being filled with new fast-food restaurants and corner stores, which is a temporary fix that will only serve to perpetuate income inequity and health inequalities ( 1 ,13,19).
Food distribution, locally organized markets, and gardening are excellent tools for communities to use to boost food access, alleviate food poverty, and promote healthy diets and lifestyles at the community level.
Recall that in order to achieve equal food access, fundamental structural and policy reforms are required. You may begin working on community-based solutions to enhance access to inexpensive healthy foods in food deserts as early as today, however ( 7 , 20 ).
Farmers markets, arabbers, and roadside carts
Community markets encourage the use of locally produced goods as well as the consumption of cultural cuisines that are both appealing to the general public and beneficial to a balanced diet. Farmers markets allow you to shop directly from producers while also supporting a flourishing local economy. Arabbers, who are street vendors that sell fruits and vegetables from horse-drawn carts, as well as wayside produce carts, may also help to establish economic possibilities and enhance food availability in food-deficient communities.
Surplus food sharing
Food sharing partnerships and alliances may help to balance out food waste from wealthier communities with limited food availability in food deserts, so promoting more efficient food economies and reducing food waste. Food rescue groups will even accept food that would otherwise be thrown out at grocery stores owing to flaws or physical abnormalities — but that is still perfectly edible — and resale it at a reasonable price to those who cannot afford it.
Federal resources for low-income people to get healthy foods
- SNAP provides cash support to low-income households while also providing nutritional benefits. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides monthly nutrition packages, incentives for nursing mothers, and benefits for children under the age of five. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) provides support to low-income older persons who are suffering from hunger in their communities.
Nongovernmental food assistance programs
- The provision of medically customized meal delivery and nutrition instruction by Meals on Wheels and other groups such as Moveable Feast is intended to promote racial, socioeconomic, and health justice. In a number of locations throughout the world, Food Not Bombs delivers free vegetarian and vegan dinners. Wholesome Wave collaborates with neighborhood groups to alleviate food insecurity and give nutritious food to those in need of assistance. Low-income populations can get food through food pantries, soup kitchens, and food banks operated by religious or community organizations, which helps to alleviate food insecurity and hunger.
The provision of medically customized meal delivery and nutrition instruction by Meals on Wheels and other groups such as Moveable Feast is intended to promote racial, socioeconomic, and health equity; In several locations throughout the world, Food Not Bombs delivers free vegetarian and vegan dinners. We at Wholesome Wave collaborate with neighborhood groups to reduce hunger and give nutritious meals to those in need. Low-income populations can get food via food pantries, soup kitchens, and food banks sponsored by religious or community organizations, which helps to minimize food insecurity and hunger in the neighborhood.
How to improve your nutrition on a budget
No matter how tight your budget is or where you live, there are different methods to consume healthy foods on a limited budget or without access to high-quality, fresh produce. Here are a few examples (23):
- Invest on canned or frozen foods. Fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables are more expensive than canned or frozen foods, but they are also more nutritious and last longer when compared to fresh alternatives. When feasible, choose canned foods that are low in sodium. Nonmeat protein sources can also be considered. For many people, meat represents a significant component of their food expenditures, particularly in the winter. Dried peas and beans have the same amount of protein as meat, but they are less expensive and stay longer. Foods that are in season should be purchased. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, in-season product is simpler to come by and less expensive than out-of-season stuff. Visit roadside booths or other local markets to purchase small amounts of fresh vegetables if they are available in your region in order to reduce food waste. Leftovers should be frozen. Freeze leftovers for reheating later in the week to save money and reduce food waste. It is also possible to reuse leftovers. Take, for example, ordinary rice leftover from Sunday supper, which may be transformed into veggie rice for Monday or Tuesday.
For those on a tight budget, storing leftovers, increasing your intake of peas and beans, purchasing canned foods, and shopping for in-season vegetables are all effective techniques for saving money while still eating healthy. If you are suffering from hunger, you can contact the USDA’s National Hunger Hotline. Food deserts, which are areas where healthy food is either difficult to get or prohibitively costly, are most common in low-income and historically disenfranchised groups. The high rates of food insecurity, racial and health inequities, as well as the high incidence of chronic illnesses, distinguish these communities.
What Is a Food Desert? Causes, Statistics, & Resources
A person living in a semi-rural location in the United States who is working two part-time jobs and struggling to make ends meet may wish to purchase good and nutritious food to supplement their diet. However, the nearest food shop may be many miles away, and the fresh fruits and vegetables available for purchase may be beyond the means of that individual. As a result, individuals may choose for more affordable but less nutritious fast food selections that are high in calories but lacking in nutritional content.
The elimination of food deserts can be a difficult task; nevertheless, there are tactics, activities, and approaches that can be used to aid in the process.
Examine information about food deserts, including their causes and consequences, as well as resources that might assist people and groups in making a positive difference in their communities.
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
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 improving their access to nutritious meals. One resource is healthier food retail (HFR) initiatives, which can include “creating new food retail outlets that sell healthier foods; improving the quality, variety, and amount of healthier foods and beverages available at existing stores; and promoting and marketing healthier foods and beverages to consumers,” according to the USDA.
Stop Food Deserts and Ensure Healthy Eating
Dealing with food deserts across the United States is a complicated subject that does not have simple answers. Increasing the number of grocery shops, increasing the number of public transportation alternatives, and finding ways to assist citizens in earning more money to spend on nutritious foods are all challenging tasks for towns and cities to do. Despite this, there are still practical strategies that may be used to assist those who live in food deserts in eating a healthy and nutritious diet.
Source The Department of Health and Human Services (U.S.