There are 23.5 million Americans – including 6.5 million children – who live in rural and urban areas across the country that lack stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. These areas are called food deserts and earlier this year, USDA launched an interactive tool that lets you find these locations on a map.
Studies show that communities with greater access to supermarkets consume more nutritious foods which is why the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity identified access to healthy, affordable foods as one of the key pillars to solving the childhood obesity epidemic.
There are currently nineteen programs from the Departments of Treasury, Health and Human Services and Agriculture available to support the development of sustainable projects and strategies to increase access to healthy, affordable foods and eliminate food deserts.
Many types of organizations are eligible for assistance including businesses, local governments, non-profit organizations and more. We know that the federal government cannot tackle the problem of food deserts alone and we encourage those who are interested to form partnerships and develop sustainable projects and strategies in their communities.
I checked the USDA interactive tool *cough* for my area and found a “food desert.” In that area are CostCo, Target [with full supermarket], Trader Joes, a huge Mexican market, two or three smaller Asian markets, and several small corner markets. Check your own area; see what you find…
So the idea seems to be that if you don’t have a car and you chose to move to a place that is farther than your idea of “walking distance” from a supermarket, you live in a “food desert.” And, of course, the gub’t oughta kick in and force some markets to be built across the street from you.
So says the NYT — yes, the New York Times.
But two new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.
…[Another study found] no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.
…[Yet another study found] no consistent relationship between what the students ate and the type of food nearby. Living close to supermarkets or grocers did not make students thin and living close to fast food outlets did not make them fat.
Poor neighborhoods, Dr. Lee found, had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores as wealthier ones, and they had more than three times as many corner stores per square mile. But they also had nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile.
So, again, we’re back to choices made by individuals.
Here’s your Statement of Teh Day:
Some experts say these new findings raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods.