Food Deserts

12.03.2013 · Posted in Uncategorized

For this project I focused on food deserts. Food Deserts are areas where communities lack access sources to affordable and nutritious foods that are necessary for maintaining a healthy diet. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service it’s estimated that 23.5 million people live in food deserts and more than one half of those people are low-income (13.5 million). According to the USDA, Census tracts have identified “low income communities” as having a poverty rate of 20% or higher and a median family income of 80% or below. In addition, “low access communities” are qualified as at least 500 persons or at least 33% of the census tracts population live over one mile from a supermarket (10 miles in the case of non-metropolitan census tracts).

Studies have found that wealthy districts have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do. White neighborhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black ones do. Also, the grocery stores in African-American communities are usually smaller with less selection.

Living in a food desert also causes a lot of health issues. Communities that are in food deserts rely on fast food restaurants and convenient stores for food access. They have limited healthy food options and food deserts play a major role in poor health and environmental degradation. The lack of access to healthy options contributes to a poor diet and leads to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related illness such as diabetes (7th leading cause of death in the U.S.), heart disease and Coronary heart disease (1st leading cause of death in U.S.).

Living in a food desert has the negative impact of it being difficult to locate foods that are culturally appropriate for them, and dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance, gluten allergies, etc.. It also limits the food choices of those who do not have access to larger chain stores that have more selection.

After learning about this issue for my project, I thought it would be important if I discovered what others could do if they lived in a food desert or wanted to help people out in a nearby community that live in a food desert. This issue can be remedied by growing your own food, working with local retailers, and discussing your concerns to policy makers, city councilmembers, state legislators, ect.

Cities such as Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles have already been working to fix the issue of having food deserts. In specific, in 2008 Los Angeles city voted to enact a moratorium on new fast food outlets in a 32-square-mile zone. This zone consisted of some of South L.A.’s most arid food deserts (area in which 97 percent of the population is either Latino, African-American, or of mixed race). By having less fast food restaurants, there was a greater demand for better food options. This policy brought the first new supermarket to South L.A. in a decade.


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