Food Deserts: How Millions go Without Fruits & Vegetables

BlogHer Original Post

Would you be surprised to hear that many people who actually live where fruits and vegetables are grown in this country, don't have access to fresh produce? It doesn't sound like that could be true, but a recent study on rural health is opening our eyes to just how widespread this problem is.

From Howie Blog -- Essentia Health research finds rural residents aren’t eating their fruits and veggies...

Even though they live closer to where the fruits and vegetables are grown, rural folks aren’t eating as much produce as people who live in the city. That’s one surprising finding from new research conducted by the Essentia Institute of Rural Health (EIRH). . . . As the study’s lead author, she compared consumption of fruits and vegetables among groups of adult Americans using data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You could be a rural person living next to a huge farm that produces fruits and vegetables and not have the means to buy them, so people in the city, who are farther removed from the source, tend to be the more likely consumers,” Dr. Lutfiyya says. “That really brings up issues of access and cost.”

 

Here is an ABC video Hunger at Home: Crisis in America...

Many families who live in rural Valley communities don't even have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and if they do, they're a lot more expensive than your local chain supermarket.

But it's not just in rural areas, the lack (or absence) of availability to fresh produce is a widespread problem. Sadly, it's a problem that leads to health issues from malnutrition to obesity (and all the secondary medical problems associated with poor nutrition).

From Bill Davenhall -- Do You Live in a Food Desert?

According to the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) report, over 23 million Americans live within a food desert, regardless whether they lived in an urban or rural area. However, physical access to food or groceries can be difficult to measure due to the many factors that create food deserts.

 

So...What is a food desert? This is how the US Department of Agriculturedescribes it...

Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

 

This is from NJ.com -- Stranded in 'food deserts' hundreds of thousands of N.J. residents lack access to healthy, fresh foods...

Experts say food deserts are the equivalent of nutritional wastelands, where families who can’t afford to hunt down fresh food are often left to subside on Slurpees, Big Macs and calorie-laden packaged foods. Studies show food desert residents are more likely to be obese and spend a greater percentage of their time and income shopping for meals. "There’s food in these communities," said Alan Berube, a senior fellow and research director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. "It’s just expensive food, or not particularly healthy food."


Are you living in or near a Food Desert? The US Department of Agriculture has an interactive Food Desert Locator that anyone can access (I was surprised to see how widespread this problem actually is).

It's one thing to acknowledge this problem...But more importantly, we need to RESOLVE this problem. Thankfully, our First Lady, Michelle Obama is working towards making healthy AND AFFORDABLE produce available to people now living in our country's food deserts.

Here is a video of First Lady Michelle Obama announcing a plan to team with grocers and other retailers to bring healthy and affordable food to communities that typically have not had access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods...

What do you think? Does it surprise you that people living where the produce is grown often don't even have access to it? Is our government doing enough to help resolve the problem of Food Deserts? Is it fair that fresh produce is so much more expensive than processed and fast foods? How would you rectify this problem if it was up to you? Please let us know your thoughts on this topic in comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com

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