Food Deserts – Barren of Healthy Food

November 24, 2010 at 8:46 am 2 comments

This post was inspired by the US Thanksgiving holiday and WBEZ morning radio City Room on Food Deserts in Chicago. Italics are mine.


“A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants.

The concept of ‘access’ may be interpreted in three ways.

  • ‘Physical access’ to shops can be difficult if the shops are distant, the shopper is elderly or infirm, the area has many hills, public transport links are poor, and the consumer has no car. Also, the shop may be across a busy road, difficult to cross with children or with underpasses that some fear to use because of a crime risk. For some, such as disabled people, the inside of the shop may be hard to access physically if there are steps up or the interior is cramped with no room for walking aids. Carrying fresh food home may also be hard for some.
  • ‘Financial access’ is difficult if the consumer lacks the money to buy healthful foods (generally more expensive, calorie for calorie, than less healthful, sugary, and fatty ‘junk foods’) or if the shopper cannot afford the bus fare to remote shops selling fresh foods and instead uses local fast food outlets. Other forms of financial access barriers may be inability to afford storage space for food, or for the very poor, living in temporary accommodation that does not offer good cooking facilities.
  • Mental attitude or food knowledge of the consumer may prevent them accessing fresh vegetables. They may lack cooking knowledge or have the idea that eating a healthful diet isn’t important.

In some urban areas, grocery stores have withdrawn alongside residents that have fled to the suburbs (see urban sprawl). Low income earners and senior citizens who remain find healthy foods either unavailable or inaccessible as a result of high prices and/or unreachable locations.”

In a land of plenty, plenty of people worldwide and in our neighborhoods don’t have food or access to healthy food choices. In Chicago and many cities in the US, the food stamp program provides access to food for individuals and families who need help putting food on their table. However, depending on where they live, they don’t have access to nutritious, good for you food. They live in a food desert.

Imagine not having fruits or vegetables, fresh meat, poultry or cheese at your local grocer. Go one step farther and imagine you don’t have a local grocer and need to shop for dinner at the gas station or liquor store. Or you have to take a bus an hour each way to get to the grocery store.

Underserved communities and the people who live in them buy their food at approved food stamp “grocers”. This can include, as loosely allowed by the program, liquor stores, gas stations, convenience stores. They have little fresh fruits and vegetables, let alone good carbs and protein.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. Indeed, I am fortunate in many, many, many ways. Making my gift to organizations serving those less fortunate, providing food (good food) to those who need it (and the numbers are still growing) and providing basic needs are at the top of my list. I encourage you to do the same.

Entry filed under: A Better You. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. marcylynn  |  November 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I just read that Walgreens is reaching out to “food deserts” by including expanded grocery selections in stores in those neighborhoods to help curb the problem. It’s inspiring to see a corporation get involved and make change based on real problems in neighborhoods.

    Here’s the link to the press release:

    • 2. Barbara Talisman  |  November 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks so much for the information. It’s good news for Walgreen’s and the community!
      Talk to you soon!


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