According to a study by Do Something, an global organization for social change “about 23.5 million people live in food deserts. Nearly half of them are also low-income.” Because food desert communities often have corner stores (it’s not the same) classified as grocery stores, food deserts are under reported.
Wealthier communities on average have three times as many grocery stores than lower income communities and they have a wider, more healthy selection. When there is little or no grocery stores in low-income communities, residents then turn to what is usually in their community – fast food restaurants.
A food desert is an area where the access to affordable, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are restricted because of few or non-existent grocery stores within a convenient location.
The increased consumption of fast food will hurt than do good especially for those living in food deserts. “Eating a poor quality diet high in junk food is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and early death.”
In Chicago there are more than 500,000 people mostly black who live in food deserts while an additional 400,000 live in neighborhoods where they will see a fast food restaurant before they see a grocery store. However, Chicago is not the only city in the United States grappling with food deserts, other metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York are as well.
The Chicago Reporter said “Most of the new supermarkets were added in and around ‘food oases,’ or areas with plentiful supermarket access. These high access areas are enriched with a variety of stores, instead of just one to serve all needs.”
However, even if there are food oases in low-income communities, then the access to money to purchase healthy food is likely an issue for people.
Food is connected to everything. It is politics at its core. What we eat and drink is created, imported and exported with politics in mind.
If food deserts are going to be fixed for low-income communities in urban and rural areas grassroots approaches (farmer’s markets) are welcomed and local government support is needed to make a healthy change.