## What is a food desert?
It’s an area where healthy, fresh food is difficult to obtain. There are increasing areas of America today where the only convenient place to buy food is a convenience store….which means a dearth of healthy, fresh whole foods for many Americans. In these food deserts, the supermarkets and the fresh food have simply moved out of town.
The USDA created this Food Desert interactive map. You can click on any shaded area to find out the population there without access to fresh foods as well as interesting and useful facts like the number of people in that area who are low-income or children ages 0-17.
Where the easiest thing to buy is chips, soda or a fast food burger one would think that rates of obesity and other diet related health issues are rising. But in fact, recent studies cited in articles by Mother Jones, the New York Times, and the Atlantic magazine have shown that income rather than access to fresh and healthy foods plays a greater role in obesity rates. What does that mean for policy makers and non-profits trying to tackle the obesity problem? Perhaps access isn’t the only issue…
- Access: healthier foods are less available
- Cost: healthier foods cost more
- Skills: healthier foods require preparation and cooking
- Equipment: cooking healthier foods requires kitchen facilities, pots, and pans
- Transportation: even if stores are available, they might be too far away
- Quality: even if stores sell fruits and vegetables, they might not be fresh
- Marketing: fast foods, snacks, and sodas are heavily marketed in low-income areas
(from The Atlantic)
Of these, it seems that cost might be the number one stumbling block on the path to healthier eating. When given the choice between fresh vegetables to cook into a stew or a drive through $1 fast food menu, you can imagine the more common choice for a cash-strapped, time-strapped, recession riddled, working family of four. It seems we’re going to have to find ways to make fresh healthy foods not only more accessible, but also more convenient and inexpensive like their Mc-counterparts.