Which Of The Following Is Not Part Of The Food Dessert Problem

Food deserts: Definition, effects, and solutions

Food deserts are areas in which individuals have limited access to nutritious and inexpensive food due to geographical limitations. This might be due to a lack of financial resources or the need to go further to locate nutritious meal alternatives. People who live in food deserts may be at increased risk for diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease because they lack access to nutritious foods. Multiple government agencies are currently sponsoring efforts to prevent regions from becoming food deserts as well as to enhance people’s access to food in areas that have already been declared food deserts by the USDA.

Areas where individuals have limited access to a range of nutritious foods are referred to as food deserts.

The USDA defines a food desert as an area where the poverty rate is greater than or equal to 20 percent, or where the median family income does not exceed 80 percent of the median family income in urban areas, or 80 percent of the statewide median family income in nonurban areas, as defined by the federal government.

In metropolitan areas, at least 500 persons, or 33 percent of the population, must reside more than one mile from the nearest big food store in order for the requirement to be met.

Between 2000 and 2006, the USDA identified approximately 6,500 food deserts.

11.5 million of these persons have poor incomes, making about a quarter of the total.

  • Populations that are either extremely huge or extremely sparse
  • Low income
  • Significant levels of unemployment
  • Insufficient access to transportation
  • A small number of food shops that provide fresh produce at a reasonable price

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.

Such analyses may aid policymakers in identifying places that are at danger of becoming food deserts, allowing them to put in place measures to improve access to nutritious foods. 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:
  • Seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, and soy products are all good choices.

It is possible that people who live in food deserts have restricted access to supermarkets and other food shops that sell nutritious and reasonably priced items. Healthful meals are sometimes available in convenience stores and tiny grocery stores; nevertheless, they are frequently out of reach for persons on a fixed budget. People who live in food deserts may consequently be more reliant on food merchants or fast food restaurants that offer a more cheap but limited choice of items to supplement their diet.

As a result, diet-related diseases such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease might occur more frequently.

  • 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.

Food swamps

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.

Food mirages

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

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.

Food Deserts*

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

See also:  What Is A Food Dessert

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.

  1. Because fewer fast food restaurants were available, there was a greater demand for more and better food options.
  2. So far, these measures have been successful in bringing the first new grocery to South L.A.
  3. New York City is a city that has a lot of things to offer.
  4. Increased rents and shrinking profit margins have caused supermarkets throughout New York City to close in recent years.
  5. 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.
  6. What can I do if I live in an area where there is no access to food?
  7. 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.

Kim.

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: 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).

Food apartheid

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.”

Food insecurity

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):

  • These are variables that are out of your control, such as access to healthcare or transportation, that have an impact on your overall health and well-being and your ability to live a fulfilling life. Food deserts are exacerbated by a number of causes (11). Income, community infrastructure, and supermarket accessibility are all factors that impact the availability of nutritious foods. Food deserts may be caused by a variety of socioeconomic determinants of health, including (but not limited to):

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).

Racial segregation

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 ).

See also:  What Is An Urban Food Dessert

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 ).

Community gardens

Community gardens not only help to create green areas and beautify the neighborhood, but they also provide fresh, nutritious produce and inspire people to eat more healthfully. Aside from that, they provide fundamental skills and information about environmental issues such as planting techniques and where food comes from. Finally, communal gardens have the potential to encourage people to invest in their own health.

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.

Canned or frozen foods should be purchased. Fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables are more expensive than canned or frozen foods, but they are also more nutritious and stay longer when compared to fresh foods. When feasible, choose canned foods that are low in sodium; experiment with different types of protein. Many people’s food costs are dominated by the purchase of meat. Compared to meat, dried peas and beans have the same amount of protein, but are less expensive and last longer. Foods that are in season are best to purchase.

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.

Also, leftovers can be repurposed. In the case of Sunday lunch leftover plain rice, it may be transformed into veggie rice for Monday or Tuesday dinner.

Food Deserts: What is the Problem? What is the Solution?

Those living in food deserts, according to the notion, have bad diets in part because fresh, healthful food is not readily available in the places where they are most likely to dwell. The evidence for various components of this idea has been reviewed from a variety of fields, and we have found it to be lacking. For most people, having access to a car is a more significant concern than having access to a full-service grocery. Furthermore, a number of situations are examined in which full-service supermarkets were established in food deserts, with little or no impact on shopping or eating patterns in the majority of cases.

Further Reading

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  33. Short, A., Guthman, J., and Raskin, S. 2007. Food deserts, oases, or mirages: what is the difference? Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 352–364 Google Scholar and The Economist (2011) published an article titled Food Deserts: If You Build It, They May Not Come. The 7th of July. On November 27, 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the following: Food Deserts are a phenomenon that began in 2013. Food Access and Obesity: A Review of the Literature. White, M. 2007. Food Access and Obesity. Obesity Reviews, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 99–107. In this article, Google Scholar cites Zenk et al. (2005) as well as Schulz et al. (2005) and Israel et al. (2005) as well as James and Bao et al. (2005) and Wilson et al. (2005) as sources of information. Racial mix of neighborhoods, poverty in neighborhoods, and geographical accessibility of supermarkets are all examined in Metropolitan Detroit. The American Journal of Public Health, volume 95, number 4, pages 660–667. Article Google Scholar is an excellent resource.
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Author information

  1. Florida State University in Orlando, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando, FL 32816-1360, United States of America James D. Wright, Amy M. Donley, and Marie C. Gualtieri are among those who have contributed to this work. Sara M. Strickhouser
  2. Sara M. Strickhouser

Corresponding author

Florida State University in Orlando, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando, FL 32816-1360, USA Department of Sociology Among those who have contributed to this work are James D. Wright, Amy M. Donley, and Marie C. Guidieri. Sara M. Strickhouser is a writer and editor based in New York City.

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?

People living in food deserts have few to no accessible choices for obtaining inexpensive and healthful meals — particularly fresh fruits and vegetables — in their communities. Food deserts, which are disproportionately prevalent in high-poverty regions, provide additional, everyday obstacles that can make it more difficult for children, families, and communities to grow up strong and healthy.

  • 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.

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