What is a Food Desert? • Definition: Low-income communities without ready access to healthy and affordable food • Effects 23.5 million Americans (including 6.5 million children) • Occurs both in urban and rural areas • Linked with poor diet, higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases (ex. diabetes) • People eat what’s convenient and affordable, which often means fast food
Consequences of Food Deserts • Linked with poor diet, higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases (ex. diabetes) • People eat what’s convenient and affordable, which often means fast food • Data reports from the FRAC suggest that there are: • A lack of grocery stores • A high cost associated with “good” food • An easy availability of fast food • Combine to create an ideal environment for poor nutrition in low-income areas.
no car and no supermarket store within a mile 2.3 million people do not have access to a car and live more than a mile from a supermarket (5 miles in rural areas) June 2009
This map colors each county in America by the percentage of households in food deserts
Clustered mostly in Appalachia, the Deep South, and on Indian reservations
Food Atlas Data • http://maps.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/ Low income and greater than one mile to a grocery store.
NYC Food Deserts • 2008 study conducted by the New York City Department of City Planning • 3 million New Yorkers live in “high-need neighborhoods” (not enough supermarkets and too many health problems) • Called for a 20% increase in new grocery stores • Food bought at discount stores & pharmacies where there’s no fresh produce • “In our study, a significant percentage of [people in low-income neighborhoods] reported that in the day before our survey, they had not eaten fresh fruit or vegetables. Not one. That really is a health crisis in the city” • http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/supermarket/index.shtml
Wal-Mart Plan • Wal-Mart: • Plans to build or expand 275-300 stores (by 2016) in underserved areas, promising access to healthy fresh food. • The retailer is promising to reformulate “everyday packaged food items” to reduce sodium by 25% and added sugars by 10%. • All trans-fats in products sold at Wal-Mart will be removed from products by 2015 (this is potentially huge because it will affect many national brands as well) • Will introduce a new front of pack nutrition label in Q2 2012 to help consumers make healthier choices
Partnership for a Healthier America • Note the picture from a Walgreens Pharmacy below. • Select Walgreens locations are beginning to carry more amounts of fresh produce to meet community needs and provide nutritional meals.
NYC Food deserts • Lack of supermarkets and high rates of diabetes are correlated and concentrated in minority and poor neighborhoods
NYC Food deserts (contd.) • Lack of supermarkets and high rates of diabetes are correlated and concentrated in minority and poor neighborhoods
Food Desert locator • The Food Desert Locator is project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service • Spatial overview of low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people who are far away from a grocery store • Can map food deserts and view census tract-level statistics on population groups with low access to healthy food • Pairs nicely with the Food Environment Atlas
Case Study: Chicago • 2009, South Side of Chicago
Food Desert Analysis • What are the environmental, political, social, cultural and economic effects of food deserts? • What are the causes and consequences of food deserts in low-income areas?
Ex. Political, Economic • First Lady is addressing the issue as part of her “Let’s Move!” Initiative • Latest news (July 20, 2011) • Expanding access to fresh food • Creating jobs • SUPERVALU(6,000), Walgreens, Walmart (40,000)
Ex. Political, ECONOMIC • Rahm Emanuel • Has made eradicating food deserts a major priority as mayor of Chicago • Held the city’s 1st “Food Desert Summit” last month (June 13, 2011)
Questions for debate • How much does where you live determine what and how you eat? • What role do you think inequality (race, gender, social class, age, etc.) plays? • Would developing more grocery stores in “food deserts” be a key to healthier eating in those communities? • What are the positive and negative effects of encouraging large retailers like Walmart to expand their reach in food deserts? • What would you propose to get people in low-income neighborhoods to eat healthier?