Some citizens in urban communities are experiencing two critical problems in accessing quality foods. The first issue is physical access to good stores with those foods. The second part of the access problem is the lack of financial resources to purchase those foods. The first part of the access problem defines a food desert. Food deserts are often short on whole food providers, especially fresh fruits and vegetables; instead, they are heavy on local quickie marts that provide a wealth of processed, sugar, and fat laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic. These communities are not financially viable enough in the eyes of economic developers for a quality grocery store.
If a citizen could get to a quality grocery store, then money is needed to purchase quality foods. Many full time working citizens need assistance to purchase “good food” which is provided by SNAP. Certain governors are requiring financial means testing for citizens participating in the SNAP program. Financial means testing could further limit access to quality foods for low income individuals sometimes these same citizens may have a chronic illness. Good food is even more important when one is ill. On a micro product cost access level, customers may pay a small premium for non- processed food, which creates another hurdle for those trying to stretch their financial resources.
If a potential customer had SNAP, they may still experience challenges accessing a “good grocery store” because of demographics. We are defining better grocery as one having good fruits, vegetables, quality meats, and carrying an assortment of vegetarian options. Generally, the better grocery stores such as a Wegman’s or Traders Joe target a certain demographic. Sadly, the urban cities with food desert problems don’t fit the general demographic profile of viable environments to open such a store.
In an attempt to be balanced and fair, large cities are trying to address inequalities regarding access to quality foods. Camden which is a great model for a city improving its health developed a coalition of health providers, pharmaceutical companies, local government, and public health officials focused on improving the community’s health. The city is now providing open air fresh food markets to its citizens. New York City is well known for its efforts related to urban farming, which is changing the food landscape in the city. Lastly, I must give kudos to my favorite city the nation’s capitol. They are leveraging social media and coupling it with access to good food. Kudos, Washington DC!
The solution to the food economic problem is twofold. Citizens need access to quality grocery stores. Society through government programs needs to provide the financial support via SNAP, so citizens can buy better foods. Lastly, we can each support this effort by electing officials that want to improve its community health!
Food Desert Information