By: Lamar Greene
The USDA defines food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” Often the marker of a food desert is if the nearest grocery store is more than a mile away, making it difficult for residents to access food generally. Although food deserts are an issue that disproportionately affect impoverished neighborhoods in both urban and rural communities, income is not the only barrier to accessing health foods. Kelly Bower, a professor of nursing at Johns Hopkins University, discovered that black and Hispanic neighborhoods have fewer large supermarkets and more small grocery stores than their white counterparts when comparing communities with similar poverty rates.
Another component we must consider when discussing space, place, and food insecurity is the type and quality of food to which people have access. A study conducted by Helen Lee with the Public Policy Institute of California found that the distance to the nearest grocery store is not correlated with a region’s childhood obesity rate. This study suggests that it is not only the lack of food in a neighborhood that can serve as a pathway for childhood obesity, but also the types of food to which people have access.
- Lee, H. (2012). The role of local food availability in explaining obesity risk among young school-aged children. Social Science & Medicine, 74(8), 1193-1203. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.12.036
- Cooksey-Stowers, K., Schwartz, M., & Brownell, K. (2017). Food Swamps Predict Obesity Rates Better Than Food Deserts in the United States. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(11), 1366. doi:10.3390/ijerph14111366