A food desert is a USDA term given to any part of the United States where healthy, affordable food is difficult for consumers to obtain. Thought to be primarily an inner city phenomenon, food deserts can be be found in both rural and urban areas. They are most prevalent among lower income communities.
With little to no easy access to supermarkets, people who live in food deserts depend on food sources located within close proximity to their homes. These take the form of fast food restaurants, corner bodegas or "dollar stores" overstocked with junk food products. If no public transit exists, shoppers are forced to travel long distances on foot to reach a grocery store.
What results is an unfortunate scenario in people exhibit a wide range of diet-related health problems: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, malnutrition and diabetes. For people with disabilities, the level of food insecurity is compounded by as much as 33%.
And that's not all! Read these personal accounts by people who live and work in food deserts every day:
“'Food deserts' aren’t barren. In fact, food is typically plentiful. It’s that the options at places like corner stores—preservative-filled, nutrient-vapid foods—are the standard, and, because food deserts tend to pop up in lower socioeconomic areas often riddled by crime and poverty, preparing healthy meals isn’t a primary concern."
~ Michael Widener, University of Cincinnati.
Read more about efforts to combat and understand food deserts.
"[Food deserts] create a cycle of poverty and despair that can be hard to break. A listener tells of an elderly woman who has to take two buses to travel four miles to get a bag of groceries or pay $5 for a gallon of milk at the corner store. When those are the choices and the margin for error is small—as is it is for many poor people—the climb up out of poverty can be insurmountable."
~ Regina Marsh, Forest Manor Multi Service Center.
Read more about the impact of food deserts on public health.
"Food, if you want to call it that, is literally killing us very slowly. It's all sprayed and genetically modified and pressed and formed and processed. These areas are devoid of any kind of organic, healthy, nutritious food. That's what a food desert is. You can go for miles without having anything healthy to eat."
~ Ron Finley, L.A. Green Grounds.
Read more about how guerrilla gardening may save food deserts.
The mission of Aisle Won, then, is to improve upon public health intervention strategies that center solely on the availability of food. We're helping families of all abilities and income levels by:
- Improving access to healthy, affordable food for people who cannot reach a grocery store
- Providing educational resources on how to create and serve healthy, delicious meals
- Enabling greater purchasing power for food supply chains to attract health-conscious customers
Aisle Won is doing exciting things, and we would love for you to be a part of it!