By Ingrid Cruz
Imagine living in a world without fresh food—a world where the only meals are from convenience stores filled with pre-packaged, processed foods, fast food restaurants down the street and farmers’ markets are rare to find. This is the reality for millions of Americans living in a “food desert.”
The USDA defines a low-access census tract for an urban area as one where at least 500 people or 33 percent of the population lives more than a half-mile away from the closest supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store
Here’s what you should know about the food desert:
Healthy food is often more expensive
Convenience stores and small specialty stores that sell fruits and vegetables usually offer them at a higher price than larger chains. The food is overpriced.
If you don’t drive, you’ll pay more
Many who live in food deserts don’t own cars and researchers still need to address proximity to public transportation. This is a problem in areas like Los Angeles, but it’s an even bigger issue in rural food deserts, where some residents may live up to 10 miles away from a large grocery store with fresher, higher-quality foods.
When people living in food deserts can afford to eat out, their food options are usually unhealthy
For many low-income families, eating out is a luxury. They can’t afford to celebrate by going to a nice and healthy restaurant and hitting up the nearest fast food joint. Healthy restaurants are virtually non-existent in food deserts.
It’s harder to be eco-conscious in a food desert
Processed food comes in smaller packages, meaning the stores rely heavily on plastic and other disposable materials. Many low-income neighborhoods don’t have recycling programs or enough incentives to participate in them. Similarly, fast food tends to come in wasteful packaging with disposable utensils.
Most food deserts are bad for your health in other ways, too.
Low-income neighborhoods increase stress levels. Food deserts are statistically lower in income and safety. Green spaces do exist, but they’re not safe. There’s also noise pollution and a lack of bike lanes.
(Courtesy: Civil Eats)