I live in New Orleans and for the most part families are able to find decent places to buy food. However, some portions of the city contain food deserts. A food desert is a section within a city where the residents do not have immediate access to healthy and high quality foods at local supermarkets. In a food desert you might see a high number of fast food establishments and convenience stores that do not offer a lot of choices for healthy eating. This is problematic for residents who do not drive or who are on a fixed income.
Food deserts are often found in low-income areas
I live in a low-income section of the city and there are more fast food joints and gas station stores than supermarkets. Luckily there is at least a Save-A-Lot within walking distance of my house. Families in low-income areas often have to drive farther out to the more decent neighborhoods just to find a good supermarket where they can get access to healthier foods. And for those who use public transit, it is challenging because sometimes they might have to wait a long time for the bus to bring them to the area where the supermarkets are located.
This increases the temptation to eat fast foods or convenience foods
When food deserts exist, those who live there are often tempted to consume meals at fast food restaurants or purchase ready-to-eat boxed or packaged meals from convenience stores that are often not healthy. Adding to this, the costs of foods at convenience stores and fast food establishments are sometimes higher than the prices of sale items at the supermarket. So we see that food deserts also hurt the wallet.
What can be done to reduce food deserts in the community?
If you plan to start a business in a low-income community, consider opening a supermarket there. Families will appreciate the chance to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, healthier meats, fish and other types of healthy food at decent prices. If you already own a few supermarket chains, why not institute a grocery delivery service? There are senior citizens, parents with children, disabled persons and new residents in town who are not always able to get to the store frequently and would appreciate this service. City residents can also lobby their officials and contact nonprofit organizations to push for more farmers markets in the area.
I live in one of these food deserts. What can I do?
You can start by purchasing some inexpensive seedlings and starting a fruit or vegetable garden in your yard. Also contact a relative or good friend and come up with a plan where he or she will take you to a supermarket a few times a week. Be sure to offer money for gas expenses. Another option would be to visit the dollar store if there is one near you. You can find healthy foods there at affordable prices.
Food deserts should not exist in a nation that has plenty of resources. With the help of city officials, business owners, social service agencies and nonprofit organizations, it is possible for everyone to have equal access to healthier foods.