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.
Food deserts: Definition, effects, and solutions
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.
- Populations that are either extremely huge or extremely sparse
- Low income
- Significant levels of unemployment
- Insufficient access to transportation
- A small number of food shops that provide fresh produce at a reasonable price
The survey also points out that rural areas in the Western, Midwest, and Southern regions of the United States are far more likely than rural areas in the Northeast to be classified as food deserts. This may be due to the fact that rural regions in the Northeast tend to be closer to metropolitan areas where food shops may be found. According to the analysis, rural regions with expanding people may be at a lesser risk of becoming food deserts in the near future. Experts have not yet achieved a consensus on the features of the populations who live in food deserts, which is a significant problem.
- Researchers have found that some low-income districts have a higher number of food stores and that they reside closer to these stores than persons from wealthier backgrounds, according to the analysis.
- It is the absence of mobility in rural regions that is the most important predictor of food insecurity.
- Furthermore, because experts have not established a consensus on the features of communities impacted by food deserts, additional study is required.
- Maintaining a nutritious diet entails the following steps:
- Consuming a diverse range of foods from all dietary categories while keeping calorie consumption under control, minimizing intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, added sweets, and excess salt is recommended.
Foods that are considered healthy by the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include the following ingredients:
- A range of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Protein-rich meals, such as:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy
- Protein-rich foods, such as the following items:
It is possible that people who live in food deserts have restricted access to supermarkets and other food shops that sell nutritious and reasonably priced items. Healthful meals are sometimes available in convenience stores and tiny grocery stores; nevertheless, they are frequently out of reach for persons on a fixed budget. People who live in food deserts may consequently be more reliant on food merchants or fast food restaurants that offer a more cheap but limited choice of items to supplement their diet.
As a result, diet-related diseases such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease might occur more frequently.
- Obesity is on the rise, as is the prevalence of diabetes, as are other weight-related diseases, particularly in youngsters.
Numerous food deserts also have limited or costly access to health-care resources.
In turn, this has a detrimental impact on the health of the individuals who live in these neighborhoods. People use a variety of phrases to express the availability of food to a community. Other instances are discussed in greater detail in the sections that follow.
A food swamp is defined as a place that gives ample access to nutritious and inexpensive food while also providing an oversupply of less nutritious food alternatives. Food swamps are more widespread than food deserts in Canadian metropolitan areas, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
A food mirage is a term used to describe a situation in which individuals live in close proximity to grocery shops that provide a range of nutritious foods but are unable to buy such goods. As a result, people must go further to acquire nutritious foods that are also within their financial means.
Food insecurity is defined as having restricted or insecure access to food as a result of a lack of financial resources. Families and individuals with limited financial resources may find it difficult to buy nutritious diets. In the United States, policymakers are actively seeking ways to enhance access to nutritious meals in food deserts around the country. The Community Food Programs Competitive Grant Program provides funding for long-term food projects that assist low-income communities in gaining access to nutritious and culturally appropriate diets and lifestyles.
Among the concerns that the Community Food Projects hope to solve are the following:
- Increasing the availability of nutritious, locally sourced meals by implementing the following strategies:
- Affordably priced grocery stores and marketplaces, as well as backyard and community gardens, as well as food aid programs
- Encouraging healthy eating habits by providing education and training on food production, preparation, and nutrition
- Enrolling eligible residents in government nutrition programs
- Increasing access to local farmers markets
- Promoting safe and fair farm worker conditions
- Supporting sustainable agricultural practices that protect the environment, water supply, and habitats
- Assisting food industry entrepreneurs
- Celebrating and honoring diverse food cultures
- Encouraging resiliency in the face of adversity
The term “food desert” refers to a region where people lack access to nutritious foods. They are a huge problem that affects millions of individuals in the United States and throughout the world. According to experts, those who live in a food desert are at a higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and other weight-related diseases. Community Food Projects are attempting to enhance food systems in areas that are considered food deserts. The overall goal of the organization is to assist in increasing inhabitants’ access to nutritious foods.
Exploring America’s Food Deserts
The Annie E. Casey Foundation published a notice on February 13, 2021.
What is a food desert?
Geographic areas where individuals have few to no easy choices for obtaining economical and healthful meals — particularly fresh fruits and vegetables — are known as food deserts. Food deserts, which are disproportionately prevalent in high-poverty regions, offer additional, everyday obstacles that can make it more difficult for children, families, and communities to develop healthy and strong.
Where are food deserts located?
Food deserts are more likely in places that have the following characteristics:
- Smaller populations
- Greater rates of abandoned or unoccupied dwellings
- Inhabitants with lower levels of education, lower incomes, and higher rates of unemployment
- And residents with lower levels of education, lower incomes, and higher rates of unemployment
According to a 2014 research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, food deserts are also a disproportionate reality for Black communities in the United States. The study compared census tracts in the United States with similar poverty levels and discovered that, in urban areas, Black communities had the fewest supermarkets, while white communities had the most, and multiracial communities fell in the middle of the supermarket count spectrum, according to the findings.
How are food deserts identified?
When diagnosing food deserts, researchers take a number of criteria into consideration, including:
- Access to food, as measured by the distance between a store and a residence or by the number of stores in a neighborhood
- Resources available to a household, such as family income or the availability of a vehicle
- Resource availability in the area, such as the average income of residents and the availability of public transit
One method used by the United States Department of Agriculture to identify food deserts is to look for census tracts with low income and limited access to food. To go to the nearest supermarket or food shop in low-access census tracts, a considerable proportion of inhabitants (33 percent or more) must drive an unpleasant distance (at least 1 mile in urban areas and 10 miles in rural areas). In low-income census tracts, the local poverty rate is at least 20%, and the median family income is at most 80% of the statewide median family income, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Mapping food deserts in the United States
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:
- Providing financial incentives to food stores and supermarkets in underprivileged regions Providing funding for city-wide initiatives to promote better eating
- Increasing support for local, neighborhood-based businesses such as corner shops and farmers markets
- When selecting food desert metrics, regulations, and interventions, it is important to consult with the community. Increasing the number of clients who may utilize their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies to purchase food online through pilot programs
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. According to the KIDS COUNT Data Center, national statistics on children and food insecurity are available.
Urban Issues: The Sprawl of Food Deserts
The introduction of the vehicle as the primary means of transportation in North America has resulted in a significant transformation of the urban environment in the last few decades. Wealthier individuals were able to migrate outward from city centers toward the suburbs as a result of privatized mobility, and with them went many of the stores that used to be commonplace in metropolitan neighborhoods. Food deserts are becoming more common in urban areas as large food merchants continue to expand into suburban regions, resulting in lower access to fresh vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods for low-income persons in metropolitan areas.
- Researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada have investigated the emergence of food deserts in the mid-sized city of London, Ontario, since the 1960s.
- Once this was done, the researchers used a variety of “network analysis” techniques to assess changes in supermarket access in relation to neighborhood location, socioeconomic characteristics, and access to public transportation.
- The study team revealed in a paper published on April 18, 2008, in the online International Journal of Health Geographics that low-income inhabitants of inner-city districts in London had less access to supermarkets than middle- and high-income households.
- According to main investigator Jason Gilliland, who runs the university’s Urban Development Program, in 1961, more than 75 percent of London’s inner-city population resided within one kilometer of a supermarket, providing them with convenient access to a range of goods.
- “Given the present worries about growing food costs and food shortages, it is reasonable to predict that this situation will only worsen in the near future,” says Isaac Luginaah, Canada Research Chair in Health Geography at the University of Western Ontario.
- As a starting point, he believes that cities should support planning policies that increase the number of people living in inner cities (e.g.
- zoning allowances, tax holidays, or tax rebates).
- The idea of a “mobile market” that travels to different areas during the week is recommended for neighborhoods that can’t support an all-day farmers’ market, says Gilliland.
- For the first time, according to Gilliland, an empirical investigation of the evolution of food deserts has been conducted.
‘On the other hand, a large number of individuals, including policymakers, may believe that accessibility is universal in the age of the automobile, failing to recognize the difficulties that those who do not have access to a vehicle experience.’ According to nutritional epidemiologist Margo Barker of the University of Sheffield School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, future research would need to account for automobile visits to supermarkets, which were not taken into consideration in the London study.
It needs to be shown, she says, if having easy access to a supermarket genuinely helps people make better food choices and maintain excellent nutritional health, particularly for those in need.
“After all,” he points out, “the ongoing closure of stores in underserved regions would result in increased unemployment and will almost certainly have severe consequences for the health of an already vulnerable population.”
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.
Department of Agriculture, more than 23 million people in the United States live in areas without access to supermarkets or other establishments providing a range of inexpensive nutritious food alternatives.
Long-term health is greatly affected by what you eat and how much you eat. To avoid a lengthy number of diseases, it is necessary to maintain healthy eating habits. For decades, health professionals have urged families to consume more healthy meals such as fruits and vegetables while avoiding junk or processed foods such as potato chips and fast restaurant cheeseburgers, among other things. Elvis Batiz is a photographer who uses Flickr. It is not, however, so straightforward for many families in the United States.
They are known as food deserts and are a severe environmental health concern that can have long-term effects on the lives of entire communities.
When most public health professionals talk about food deserts, they’re usually talking to metropolitan surroundings – inner cities, for example, where higher land prices might deter many potential grocers from setting up shop there. However, whereas metropolitan regions account for around 82 percent of all food deserts, rural towns are not entirely exempt. As reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), around 335,000 people in the country live more than 20 miles from a supermarket.
Food deserts are more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods, which are often the worst harmed by them.
According to the USDA, over half of all low-income zip codes (i.e., those with a median income of less than $25,000) qualify as food deserts.
Who Lives There
Generally speaking, when public health authorities talk about food deserts, they’re talking to metropolitan surroundings — specifically, inner cities, where higher land costs might deter many potential grocery stores. However, whereas metropolitan regions account for around 82 percent of all food deserts, rural places are not entirely free from the phenomenon. As reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), around 335,000 people in the country live more than 20 miles from a grocery store.
Food deserts are most prevalent in low-income neighborhoods, which are often the most severely affected.
According to the USDA, food deserts are found in half of all low-income zip codes (those with a median income of less than $25,000).
- More minority residents
- Higher rates of unoccupied dwellings
- Higher rates of unemployment
- Lower levels of education among residents
- Smaller population sizes.
Although living in a food desert is not the same as being food insecure, it should be highlighted that they are related. Not everyone who lives in a food desert has difficulty obtaining nutritious meals. It is usually still an option for those who have the means and chance to do so to go to a large supermarket or have goods delivered to their door step. Individuals who live in a food desert do not necessarily have limited access to staples such as whole grains and fresh veggies. In other circumstances, such meals may be accessible, but their high cost makes them prohibitive for some people to purchase.
Impact on Health
Ironically, obesity is the most serious public health risk associated with food deserts. Given the fact that those who don’t have easy access to good foods are more likely to eat less healthfully than those who do, this makes sense. A person’s weight increases as a result of poor eating habits, which in turn leads to obesity. Being considerably overweight or obese raises a person’s risk for a wide range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, among other things.
- Excessive weight may even raise your chance of developing cancer, according to one study, which estimated that 481,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed globally in 2012 as a result of being overweight or obese.
- Aside from obesity, poor eating habits throughout a kid’s first few years of life can have a substantial impact on the ability of the child to develop.
- Nutritional deficiencies in nutrients such as iron, vitamin A, and iodine have been associated to cognitive issues, weakened immune systems, and stunted growth in children and adolescents.
- The chance of having a child born with potentially catastrophic birth abnormalities increases for babies born to mothers who do not obtain enough folate throughout the first trimester of their pregnancy.
- Another issue that is sometimes disregarded when discussing food deserts is the danger they bring to people who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.
- In the United States, around 200,000 people require emergency medical care each year after inhaling or drinking something they are allergic to.
- Even while studies have identified substantial associations between a lack of supermarkets and health problems like as obesity, current research is beginning to suggest that the relationship may be far more convoluted than previously thought.
Low income and low educational attainment have also been associated to obesity outside of the setting of food deserts, and some recent research has suggested that socioeconomic status may be a more relevant factor in nutritional outcomes than access to a grocery store in some situations.
What Can Be Done?
Food deserts have been on the radar of public health departments for some time now, and many have already begun implementing strategies and policies to deliver fresh fruit and other nutritious foods to areas that are currently without access to these resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises numerous ways to address and avoid food deserts, including:
- Creating communal gardens
- Establishing local farmers markets
- And other initiatives Increasing public transit options from food deserts to established markets. Changing municipal laws and tax rules in order to encourage supermarkets and other healthy food shops to open their doors
However, making inexpensive nutritious food more accessible is only one component of the answer. If low-income communities had better access to higher-quality food, according to one estimate, the disparity in nutritional status would be reduced by nine percent. Why? Because while building supermarkets in formerly food desert areas may provide better food alternatives to the community, it does not necessarily result in a shift in people’s food-purchasing behavior. Families that relocate to an area where healthy eating is the norm and where healthy foods are readily available do not suffer from this problem.
- As many parents will agree, it takes a time to discover a menu of activities the whole family can enjoy, and breaking that habit will require a whole lot more than opening a store nearby.
- Food is a very cultural and personal experience for everyone.
- In order to bring about any significant change, nutrition education should be constructed with these traditions in mind, making cautious to recognise deeply ingrained cultural norms prevalent in every society.
- Encouraging families to join in a community garden, for example, would not be possible in an area where many of the adults have several jobs with limited free time to chip in.
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.
Critics say it’s time to stop using the term “food deserts”
However, boosting access to good and cheap food extends beyond what is stated in the term. In media stories concerning impoverished communities and their lack of inexpensive healthy eating alternatives for inhabitants, the phrase “food desert” has been thrown around for decades. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study of 40 years’ worth of studies on these topics and discovered that the word originated in Scotland in the 1990s, when a task committee concerned with nutrition inequalities created the concept.
However, in recent years, the phrase has gone out of favor with people.
Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies website, advocating instead for the use of the term “food apartheid,” which means “food segregation.” Many people believe that the methodologies used to determine the designation are flawed or outdated, and that they gloss over both the negatives and the positives of the designation.
It seems that almost everyone wants to see change, not only on paper but also in reality, to better understand what is going on in these areas and, ultimately, to enhance access to nutritious foods.
The phrase has been abandoned by even the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which now refers to places that are low-income (defined, in certain circumstances, as having a poverty rate of 20 percent or above) and low-access (defined as an urban area where 33 percent of the population lives a mile or more from a supermarket).
“Cities can plan for housing, transportation, and economic growth; we should plan for food systems as well,” says the author.
Also included are supermarkets and other large retail stores that are located within the strict boundaries of a given neighborhood; however, alternative food hubs such as farmers markets and community gardens, as well as supermarkets that may technically be located outside of a neighborhood but are located right at its perimeter, are not included in the FARA calculation.
Because people have “resilient food access tactics that are less deficit-focused,” George asserted, “we can find out how to better assist them via policy” by evaluating and recognising these methods, he added.
This is a technique that was recently studied in Providence, Rhode Island, and which researchers say can foster a more textured and nuanced understanding of what assets residents have and don’t have when it comes to providing food for themselves and their families, among other things.
The USDA’s recently updatedThrifty Food Planfor the 48 contiguous states—which is used to determine SNAP benefits and which increased those for a family of four by 21 percent, to $835.57—would also be amended to account for the fact that grocery prices are higher in some areas, which can be a significant barrier to healthy food procurement.
It also discovered that just counting the number of supermarkets inside a neighborhood’s boundaries did not provide a sufficient definition of food access in three designated “food desert” tracts in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Farmers markets, farm stands, CSAs, tiny convenience stores—there are many more retail locations where people can find fresh produce.” When you take all of this into consideration, “you will notice that there isn’t much of a food desert anymore.” “Farmers markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, small convenience stores—there are several retail outlets where individuals may purchase fresh produce.” Due to the fact that some of these stores can be more costly than supermarkets, or at the very least might be viewed as more expensive, Kotval-Karamchandani supports for giving community people with a greater variety of purchasing options.
One method to do this, according to her, is to encourage large retail chains such as Kroger and Meijer to establish smaller, express versions of their stores in low-income and difficult-to-access regions.
“We have the authority to zone areas; this is what we do.” The fact that new cities are no longer being constructed from the ground up, however, presents a problem in this regard.
The assumption is that by taking on less debt at the outset, these merchants will have a higher chance of remaining in business and continuing to provide services to their customers.
For example, before approving an application for a Super Natural Produce Reading, conversations were held with local partners and residents to ensure that this was a welcome addition to the community.
The fact that farmers markets accept Double Up Food Bucksto stretch SNAP benefits for produce, and that small stores accept SNAP EBT cards; and the fact that some foods are even considered healthy—are all things that more advocates are beginning to recognize.
In places with low produce consumption, such as Des Moines, Iowa, programs such as Double Up Food Bucks have been eagerly accepted since they allow one dollar to be stretched into two when purchasing fresh, and typically locally sourced, fruits and vegetables.
To make up for the remainder, Kotval-Karamchandani said, “What is the most frequent mode of communication—fliers?” Do you want to make a public service announcement on local television?
She has also written for Sierra Magazine, Ensia, and Civil Eats. You may find her online at lelanargi.com. Get a weekly serving of stories, analysis, and insight from those on the front lines of the food movement.