This week I’d like to talk about food deserts. Food deserts are defined as parts of the country that lack fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. They’re usually located in impoverished areas, due to an absence of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers (American Nutrition Association). When looking for a more specific definition though, the D.C. Policy Center provides a pretty clear one, specifically when looking at the Washington D.C. area. Their three indicators of a food desert are as follows:
- The walking distance to a supermarket or grocery store is more that 0.5 miles
- Over 40 percent of households have no vehicle available
- The median household income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four (for example, if the federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,600, the median household income would have to be less than $45,510, combined with the two bullet points above).
In taking into account this definition, it was found that about 11 percent of D.C’s total area is classified as a food desert. Within that 11 percent, the highest concentration of food desert areas were found in ward 8, with 51 percent of D.C.’s food deserts being centralized there. When looking at the broader picture, more than 23 million people live in food deserts across the U.S., according to an article from Newsweek.
The results of living in these areas can be quite harmful, as one could imagine. In an article from the Duke Green Classroom, food desert residents have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. They also stated that “Along with medical bills that may exceed what a family is capable of paying, these chronic illnesses can cause diet-related cancers and even premature death. These severe consequences of living in a food desert represent the potential for a life expectancy far shorter than counterparts living near a grocery store” (Duke Green Classroom). Furthermore, cuts to the food stamp program have left recipients with an average of $90 a month, making it that much more difficult on people living in foot desert areas.
I hope that this post helped to inform you on what food deserts are, as well as where and how they’re impacting those affected. Thank you all for reading.
“Health and Socioeconomic Disparities of Food Deserts” Duke Green Classroom, 2017.
Parsons, Sarah. “Just Deserts: 6 Ways to Bring Good Food to Poor Neighborhoods How to End Food Deserts and Bring Healthy Food to Poor Neighborhoods.” Good, 2012
Quick, Susie. “A Town Called Malnourished” Newsweek, 2012
Smith, Randy. “Food access in D.C. is deeply connected to poverty and transportation.” D.C. Policy Center, 2017.
“USDA Defines Food Deserts.” American Nutrition Association, 2011Tobin, Brielle, et al.