The featured image has a cluster of green blobs placed around certain parts of the U.S.. What do they mean? They mark the parts of the country that are food deserts. The Google definition of food desert is “an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality food”. However, if you don’t dig deeper into the research and underlying issues of food deserts, you’ll fail to uncover the array of social issues that come into play in regards to this issue such as socioeconomic and racial demographics, as well as red-lining and how that was also applicable to the grocery store industry.
As shown in the collection of essays, “Cultivating Food Justice” written by multiple authors and professors, food deserts are most commonly found in communities of poverty and within those communities, the racial demographic is predominately people of color. They have little to no access to a name brand supermarket due to distance. When there is a supermarket nearby, they carry less stock in produce and other components needed to have a healthier diet because the assumption is that the people in these communities don’t want a healthy diet, and wouldn’t be able to afford maintaining one either. Instead of having more supermarkets, these communities are also found to have a wider amount of fast food chains.
In the book “Cultivating Food Justice”, one essay talks about a young boy named Anthony who lives in a food desert and eats McDonald’s and Chipotle for most meals of the day. Not only is this not a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also a more expensive lifestyle overtime. The consequences health-wise of living in a food desert is the rates of diabetes being more prominent at a younger age, due to the lack of nutritional value in the foods they’re consuming because the kids and families in these neighborhoods are only eating what’s accessible to them.
Not only are these issues still prominent within the country, but while Michelle Obama focused on combating obesity (especially amongst children) there hasn’t been a follow up or any new implementations of helping those in need of accessing healthy and affordable food. In fact, the latest proposal that Trump and his administration gave was a “food box” which would essentially replace food stamps. Not only does this take away individuals basic right to purchasing their own foods in a grocery store, the foods that have been chosen, hypothetically speaking, for these food boxes simply wouldn’t work for a large amount of people. The LA Times reported that the boxes would include “shelf-stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish.” Meaning anyone with lactose-intolerance, celiacs or a gluten allergy, or someone on a vegetarian/vegan diet would be unable to eat a large amount of what’s in the box. Economists also reported that an alternative system or sticking to food stamps would be much cheaper as well then creating this entirely new system of delivering food boxes to those who need it.
In summary, the solution to food deserts and other issues surrounding isn’t a package of food or taking away food stamps. It’s instead promoting and assisting impoverished communities in maintaining a healthy diet, and making grocery stores or local markets more common and accessible to those who need it; without taking away their right to choosing their own foods.