The United States Department of Agriculture recently issued a Food Desert Locator map. What the heck does that mean?
According to the USDA, a food desert is defined as: “as a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store:
“To qualify as a ‘low-income community,’ a census tract must have either: 1) a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, OR 2) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the census tract’s median family income;
“To qualify as a ‘low-access community,’ at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles).”
Curious, I wanted to check out my city on the map (you can check out yours here, too,). The big picture looks nice for southeastern Nebraska. Zoom in, though, and things change.
Omaha has sections of the city lacking in access to a large grocery store, notably in north Omaha, some midtown locations and south of the city in Bellevue.
Why does it matter? Everywhere these days, you hear about the need to eat healthier, to prepare your own meals and rely less on packaged goods. How can a person do that without access to nutritious foods?
And it’s not just about access to nutritious foods – I’ve seen gas stations sell bananas, after all – it’s about making these kinds of foods affordable.
So, what is being done to address this problem? According to the USDA website on food deserts: Part of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, the proposed Healthy Food Financing Initiative will expand the availability of nutritious food to food deserts – low-income communities without ready access to healthy and affordable food – by developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores and farmers markets with fresh and healthy food. The HFFI is a partnership between the Treasury Department, Health and Human Services, and the Agriculture Department (USDA).
To me, prevention (eating healthier, being active) is much cheaper and better than treatment. What are your thoughts on this?