At the start of a new year, many people turn their attention towards creating healthy habits. We all know what this entails: fresh, whole foods and exercise. While it sounds simple to eat more vegetables and to spend more time outside, it is not always such an easy process. Our access to fresh foods and outdoor space is greatly determined by our neighborhoods. Communities of higher socioeconomic status have greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while communities of lower socioeconomic status have more corner stores with processed foods.
This is known as a “food desert”. According to Food Empowerment Project, a food desert is defined as the following:
Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance.
We have two key words in this definition, affordable and convenient. Anyone can argue that a person can travel to those healthy foods in other communities, but is it realistic? And even if we plop down organic grocers in lower socioeconomic communities, it doesn’t mean people can afford what is sold.
Food Empowerment Project share other important facts on their page about food deserts:
- More commonly found in communities of color and low-income areas
- Many food deserts have many fast food and processed food options
- Convenience stores most often sell fruit and vegetables individually and not in bulk
- Healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods
Not to mention, the far reaching affects a long-term unhealthy diet can have:
While unhealthy eating may be economically cheaper in the short-term, the consequences of long-term constrained access to healthy foods is one of the main reasons that ethnic minority and low-income populations suffer from statistically higher rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related conditions than the general population.
This is not to blame people living in food deserts for choosing the unhealthy options. Our society is giving you every reason to chose them–convenience and affordability. What we need is a food revolution. Our local leaders need to make access and affordability to healthy options a priority. Our communities need to be safe spaces, and that includes in food.
Want to learn more about health and wellness? Consider joining Polished Pebbles this Saturday!