posted by Helaine Ciporen, 8/2/11
We usually think of the US as the land of plenty, but many people are living in “food deserts” where access to healthy food is severely limited, or completely unavailable. According to Patchwork Nation, in 2006 2.4 million households were located in food deserts.
A food desert is defined as an area where households are more than a mile from a supermarket with no access to a vehicle. While only 1.5% of households in wealthy suburbs were located in food deserts, 5.9% of the homes in minority communities were in food deserts. Food deserts can be harmful to your health, especially regarding obesity and type 2 diabetes. Nationally, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, counties with the highest percentage of households living in food deserts (10% or more) had rates of adult obesity in 2008 that were a full 9 percentage points higher than counties with the lowest percentage of households in food deserts (1% or fewer households). Similarly, high-food desert counties had rates of adult diabetes that were five points higher than low-food desert places.
Food deserts also contribute significantly to obesity among low-income preschool children. This is because the ways in which most people living in food deserts fill in the gaps in their diet is by eating out. Counties with high rates of food deserts also tend to have higher per capita expenditure at fast food restaurants. The food that you eat out is usually much more fattening and less nutritious than what you would cook at home. But if you can’t get to the market to be able to cook at home, there is a big problem. We need to fight to get more healthy food markets in more communities around the country!