Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Food Desert Awareness Week

Today's the last day of Food Desert Awareness Week. The National Center for Public Research defines a "food desert" as:

"A large geographic area with no or distant grocery stores. Often, food deserts have an imbalance of food choice, meaning more nearby fringe good such as fast food, convenience stores, and liquor stores."

It often goes unmentioned that today's ever-so-popular food movements--eat local, eat organic, eat whole food, eat fresh, not processed--are movements of privilege and require the freedoms of time, mobility, geographic location, and income that are only afforded to a certain socioeconomic class.

Could I eat the way I choose to eat now if I were a single parent? Maybe. If I were a single parent earning minimum wage? Probably not. If I were a single parent earning minimum wage, living in a city with no car and no grocery store within ten miles, having been raised by parents who did not cook meals from scratch or grow food in the back yard or ahve aplace to teach me how to pick out good vegetables? No effing way.

But that's the kind of scenario facing far too many people today. People in the public health arena (my own mother included) are desperately trying to convey the message that if you eat crappy, processed food, you will get chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. Lower class populations suffer from these diseases at alarmingly higher percentages than anyone else. But if the only places you can access food are convenience stores and fast food restaurants, of course the food you eat will be crappy and processed.

We've cut the impoverished off from a healthy food supply and guaranteed that their socioeconomic status will limit their access to healthy food for generations. And I'm not exaggerating when I say, it is literally killing them.


  1. If you were a single parent living in a big city, you'd still have access to that city's public transit system. A single mother working at minimum wage may be able to get a farecard at a reduced rate.
    Assuming that city were New York City, you could take the subway for a $5 roundtrip. Take a folding, rolling shopping cart with you, leave your child(ren) with a friend, and take train or bus to the store.
    It would involve a lot of prep work:
    1. coupon-clipping (or printing, these days).
    2. mapping out what good supermarkets are within walking distance from trains that are close to you and, also importantly, where there are elevators or escalators that help you get back upstairs with 30 to 50 pounds of groceries.
    You would not eat exactly as you would have as a single college student -- no more pizza unless you make it at home -- but you could regain a semblance of normalcy.
    TourguideStan (your uncle)
    P.S. Great that you have a blog! Mine is here: