Food deserts can be described as geographic locations that do not enjoy access to affordable and healthy food choices. For instance, you will not get fresh fruits and veggies in these areas designated as food deserts. In these cases, the grocery shops are located too far away from their vicinity. Here we discuss what food deserts are and how they impact the world population.
By the term ‘food desert,’ most people might assume them to be the areas that have limited access to food. Speaking, this is not the right way to understand them. In a typical food desert, the residents do enjoy access to food, but the food they get is rather unhealthy. Since these areas provide access to a lot of sick and fatty foods, the rate of obesity in these regions is much higher than in the remaining US.
Food deserts statistics
Today there are about 23.5 million people in the US are living in food deserts. Nearly half of this population is in the low-income slab, approximately 2.3 million people that make up about 2.2% of all the households in the country is found to inhabit low-income areas in rural settings that are not less than 10 miles away from a supermarket.
There are chances that food desert statistics are not adequately represented since the North American Industry Classification System counts small corner grocery stores that sell packaged foods also in the same category of the Whole Foods and Safeway.
The occupants of the food deserts have a hard time getting foods that are culturally appropriate and which can satisfy their dietary restrictions.
The spread of food deserts
Food deserts are spread all over the United States. Hence we cannot say that some areas in the country are free of food deserts. Nevertheless, statistics reveal that the South contains some food deserts when compared to the rest of the country. We also do find food deserts in urban areas and thickly populated regions like Chicago, New Orleans, and Atlanta.
Since there are no supermarkets in the areas identified as food deserts to provide access to affordable foods and whole foods, the residents of these areas have only two miserable choices in front of them – buy from either fast food outlets or small convenience stores. Unfortunately, neither of these places has healthy foods to give them.
Convenience stores are found selling processed foods. These foods are loaded with sugar and junk ingredients. These foods are the main contributors to obesity. Also, the fast food restaurants are seen serving high fat and high-calorie foods that also give way to obesity and related disorders and problems.
The impacts of food deserts on health
Studies are going on in the world around us to correlate between food deserts and overall health of the humans. Particular research had discovered that the more the supermarkets in a given area, the lower the rate of obesity. This can never be said as a coincidence. Access to supermarkets alone cannot solve the problems forced by food deserts. Enabling access does not mean people can come over their habits so easily and readily.
Rays of hope
Michelle Obama campaigned to end childhood obesity under the title “Let’s Move.” This program targets at eradicating food deserts. It makes a real sense to participate in such initiatives and contribute our bit to support them.
The government has sanctioned $400 million to support this movement. As part of this program, the supermarkets that open in food deserts are given tax breaks.
People inhabiting the poorest SES (social-economic status areas have 2.5 times more access to fast food outlets when compared to those living in the wealthy belts. Since the options in front of them are limited, people living in the food deserts often end up consuming a lot of fast foods from these eateries.
Food insecurity is directly related to increased diabetes rates. In Chicago alone, the death rate from diabetes in the areas designated as food deserts is twice that of the areas that have access to grocery stores.
While it is the combined responsibility of all humans to see that their brethren gets healthy, nutritious and affordable food anywhere and everywhere on the globe, we must do our bit to wipe the sickness suffered by people living in food deserts. Support the movements running in the line of ending food deserts and do your bit to eradicate food deserts and save humanity from the diseases and difficulties caused by food deserts.
Some useful measures to end food deserts
The first step towards ending food deserts is to provide all people with access to supermarkets. Following this, other initiatives like neighborhood convenience stores, farmer’s markets, and community food projects can also take part in this service.
Convenient stores can start selling healthy and affordable foods. However, for them to provide an alternative to supermarkets, they must be able to sell healthy food regularly. By having the right kind of foodstuffs in these small stores, we can make sure that the overall quality of foods in the food deserts is improved significantly.
People must be educated on the benefits of consuming healthy foods. Also, they must also be provided subsidies and tax benefits while purchasing healthy foods.
Currently, we see some cities taking concrete moves towards supplying fresh foods to these deserts. For example, we find Seattle increasing the number of pop-up grocery stores. In similar lines, New Orleans is launching an urban agricultural scene.
Above all these measures, it is essential to motivate people to change their eating and shopping habits. We must move the present generation to eat healthy foods as a voluntary choice.