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Food deserts are a growing problem all around the world. Food deserts are geographic areas where access to affordable and healthy food is restricted or limited due to lack of grocery stores being in a close proximity.Food desert is almost a misleading name, there is plenty of food available, but it is all fast food restaurants and small corner grocery stores that mainly sell packaged foods and little to no fruit or vegetables. Food deserts often go hand in hand with food insecurity, these food deserts are usually located in poor socio-economic neighborhoods and many people can’t afford nutritious food or aren’t able to physically get to a grocery store that is far away. The people’s choices about what to eat are severely limited and what they mainly can afford is food with high fat, sugar, and salt content, being mostly processed foods.
When fast food is more easily available than taking several buses or trains to get to a grocery store, one will most likely choose the first option due to convenience and price. This is taking its toll on people living in food deserts; studies show that these populations suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-related problems. This is a concern because this style of living is not sustainable and has negative impacts on communities that don’t necessarily have a choice of where they can live, which is usually in low-income, rural areas.
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You might be wondering how food deserts have been created and it has to do with economics. Small neighborhood markets became very popular in urban towns about 50 years ago, and superstores are often too big for rural communities and they are not able to make a profit. USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts and more than half of those people are low income. Many American households are food insecure, meaning they lack enough food for a healthy lifestyle. The government overlooks communities impacted by food deserts due to the North American Industry Classification System, which will categorize small corner grocery stores as being the equivalent of Safeway or Whole Foods.
Food deserts are gaining more attention because it is an unsustainable way to live and there are more efforts to help people gain better access to healthy foods which, in turn, will help the environment and their lifestyle. There are multiple solutions that are in the works to resolve the issues regarding food deserts. A key person in eradicating food deserts is Michelle Obama. According to the White House Blog, she has created a program that will try to end food deserts with a $400 million dollar investment that focuses on providing tax breaks to supermarkets that open in food deserts. Some additional initiatives are community garden initiatives that provide access to inexpensive, fresh produce; another one is requiring all convenience stores to offer a certain amount of fruit. Produce trucks have become more popular and they travel to different communities and deliver fruits and vegetables for easier access to healthier food. If you want to help out or get involved, the USDA created a food map for the U.S. that points out where the closest food deserts are to you.
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Food deserts have proven to be a health concern for people, and cannot be sustained for very long, more affordable and accessible grocery stores are needed in urban neighborhoods that are suffering. Producing fast food and exporting it has a bigger impact on the planet compared to having a more balanced diet filled with natural, local produce such a fruits and vegetables. It is also an economical problem because people who are living in food deserts don’t have the resources or money to move and it’s going to be expensive to implement solutions. There are many solutions to eradicate food deserts for future generations and implementing more sustainable food systems is crucial to helping people get the nutrition they need.
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