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Food Deserts

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When I was younger, it was normal to see people carrying their groceries back home from the neighborhood grocery store. Each man, woman and child carried a bag on their trek home. I was one of those people, the grocery store was two blocks away, convenient and had the fruits and vegetables my family needed to prepare good meals. Now, neighborhood grocery stores that provide affordable healthy foods are far and few in between. Along with the issue of not having quality grocery stores available to low income neighborhoods; can we really say that food deserts are the main cause of poor nutrition and diets in urban and rural areas? Indianapolis the city where I live ranked number one as the worst city for limited access to healthy food. Food deserts have become a big problem in low income communities largely due to the lack of grocery stores. These desert areas are short on healthy food providers, and heavy on local quickie marts, and explain the link between hunger, poverty, and obesity, in low income communities. Innovative solutions to this problem include supporting a petition for the Food Deserts Act Bill, bring fresh produce and healthy affordable snacks to the local quickie marts, and start education programs on buying and cooking healthy foods. If the people can’t get to the healthy foods we have to find a way and help bring the food to them. (Brundage-Moore,5 2016) The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as parts of areas in the city lacking access of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. Food deserts are largely due to lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. This has become a big problem because these areas often are heavy on local quickie marts that provide a wealth of processed sugar and fat loaded foods that are known contributors to our nations obesity epidemic. British Politicians introduced the idea of food deserts in the mid-1990’s, adopting the term after a few preliminary studies suggested a link might exist between distance to a grocery store and the diets of low income. The idea had caught on in the U.S. by 2004, when Pennsylvania passed The Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which offered grants and loans to super markets willing to open in distressed neighborhoods and helped smaller stores expand their supplies of fresh foods. Twenty-two states now have some version of fresh-food financing and there are countless local and non-profit programs, including cooking and nutrition classes designed to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into the lives of poor people. Limited access to healthy affordable foods explain the link between hunger, poverty and obesity in low-income communities. Unhealthy options mean that community members are eating fast food more often than not. Fast food and convenience stores don’t typically sell the variety of foods needed for a healthy diet such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy and lean meat products. If they do sell them, they often cost more than they cost at a grocery store. This puts those who live in food deserts at a financial and nutritional disadvantage. Teaching Tolerance food deserts statics show 23.5 million people live in low income areas more than one mile from a supermarket, low income census tract have half as many supermarkets as wealthy tracts, residents in 20 % of rural counties live more than ten miles from a supermarket. Two days ago a coworker called me and asked if I would give her a ride to the grocery store since her car had broken down. I agreed not knowing the ride that was in store. She lives near downtown Indianapolis but we had to travel nearly thirteen miles to the nearest affordable and fresh produce grocery store. She has five children all under the age of seven, three of the five kids are overweight. It is nearly impossible to get to a decent and low budget friendly grocery store without a car. “I cannot keep feeding my kids like this, the stores in the area are not accessible and the fast foods are so inexpensive and convenient.” I see how convenient fast food is affecting the diets of the five children. The entire time that we were shopping the five and six -year old kept complaining about being hungry, the mother would reply” stop saying that you are not hungry you just ate before we got here.” I asked the children what did they eat I was informed that they had eaten milk and donuts from the corner store. Obesity in America is a serious health epidemic. People who suffer from obesity are at risk for morbidity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. Just because a person is obese does not mean that they eat a lot, it could be due to unhealthy consumptions of high calorie, high sodium, high cholesterol foods. I propose we start attacking the problem now. We could start with supporting a petition for Congressman Andre Carson to get the Food Deserts Act bill passed, which would create new avenues to fund for-profit, non-profit, and municipally owned stores in underserved communities. This bill will create USDA funded, state operated revolving funds that will issue low interest loans for the operation of grocery stores in food deserts. The bill ensures that recipients of these loans will provide affordable, healthy food, including fresh produce and staples like milk, bread and meat. It also ensures that the USDA professionals are available to provide technical assistance to recipients who need it. For ten- years folks had to buy their groceries at convenience stores and gas stations where usually they don’t have a lot of fresh foods if any at all to choose from, (Gilligan, Feb 2014). Access to healthy food is something that many of us take for granted. One more approach to tackling the limited access to healthy foods problem would be to use what the food desert communities already have, corner stores, bring fresh produce and healthy snacks, make the snacks affordable to low income communities. Follow the footsteps of Washington D.C. Start a program that would transport the fresh produce, work with small businesses to offer nutrition education, marketing support, advertise people buying healthy food and enjoying it, make the food appealing and affordable. This would be in part with the Food Deserts Act bill, the funding would come from the USDA, providing the corner stores with incentives for providing fresh affordable healthy foods. Provide the convenience store owners marketing materials and guides to selling healthy foods. Show consumers that other consumers want to buy fresh fruit and vegetables if they are available, and affordable. The D.C. Healthy Corner Store Program worked to reduce food insecurity and improve D.C. residents’ health by analyzing ways that small retailers could improve customer access to fresh produce, low-fat snacks, nutritious beverages, and other healthy foods in neighborhoods without adequate super markets and other sources of affordable healthy foods. The garden on the go program has already started to help fight the problem this is a non-profit organization that launched in May 2011 from an Indiana University Health Initiative to help combat obesity in the state of Indiana by providing at risk residents in Indianapolis communities the opportunity to accessible and affordable access to purchase fresh, healthy foods. The Garden on the Go mobile produce truck makes regular stops at four to five different locations a day, five days a week. Anyone is welcome to shop at the Garden on the Go pop-up produce markets, sites include churches, health centers, schools, senior living centers, community centers and apartment complexes. (Heiling,2014) Health education classes are needed as well not only how to buy healthy foods but how to prepare them as well. Just by putting a grocery store in a low income community will not solve the problem overnight. Some argue that income not access, has been labeled as the major contributing factor in getting quality nutrition. Being able to purchase food, not as much as getting to the food, has a big impact on families well-being as almost as anything else. Lack of income changes a family’s shopping and eating habits, once a family has picked up the bad habit of eating unhealthy does not mean putting an accessible grocery store in their neighborhoods will change those habits. Steven Cummings, a professor of population at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine stated when talking about adding new grocery stores to a neighborhood, “It can improve perceptions of food access, but it does not necessarily translate into a behavior change.” Cooking Matters is a great start in the health education program. This wonderful program teaches participants how to shop, use nutrition information to make healthier choices and cook delicious healthy and affordable meals. This program has been featured by first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign and recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for excellence in nutrition education. Founded in 1993 Cooking Matters and thousands of volunteer instructors have helped over 265,00 low income families in communities across the country learn how to eat better for less. This is a six- week Cooking Matters course to adults, kid and families. Each course is team-taught by a volunteer chef and nutrition educator and covers meal preparation, grocery shopping, food budgeting, and nutrition. Food deserts are a big problem for low income communities, better access to affordable fresh and healthy food stores and good health education programs buying and cooking healthy foods is a great start to fixing the problem of obesity. We have to start working on this problem now rather than later, we need to get this Food Desert Act Bill passed so the funding can get the ball rolling on these innovative solutions to our problems of deserts in the city.

carson.house.gov Mar 25 2016 dchunger.org D.C. Hunger Solutions
E-Newsletter
Nutrition Digest vol 38, no. 1
Published by the American Nutrition Association slate.com What to Eat, What not to Eat Feb 10, 2014 stanforddaily.com ASHA Brundage-Moore May 3, 2015
Teaching Tolerance
TOLERANCE.ORG…...

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