Fighting the Food Desert

heavy-woman-watching-tv-while-eating-junk-food-thumb5939970About a third of our nation’s adults are obese, which translates to escalated risks for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Many of our nation’s neighborhoods simply don’t have access to supermarkets, let alone fresh organic fruits and veggies. Chips, soda and other packaged, chemical-filled, unhealthy ‘convenience foods’ are cheap and readily available at the corner store…a far cry from the nourishment our body naturally craves, and a key contributor to the obesity epidemic.

The term for geographic food inequity is ‘food desert,’ and it’s defined as a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet…but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants.  It was coined by Mari Gallagher, a researcher who has delved deep into the topic and found that food deserts exist in every type of community across the U.S — urban, rural and suburban.

I was moved by a profile on Chicago-based Graffiti and Grub and its founder, La Donna Redmond, on CNN last week. Her community garden and store focuses on supplying several low-income Chicago communities with sustainable, organic and locally-grown food. This quote says it all…

“You could find drugs in my community, you could find a gun in my community, but you couldn’t find a tomato.”
-LaDonna Redmond

One of the critical areas of good eating habits is education – ideally from an early age as so brilliantly executed in Alice Waters’ inspirational Edible Schoolyard project. In a similar vein, Graffiti and Grub is focused on ‘providing the hip hop generation with the tools needed for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.’

Kudos to those hard-working advocates committed to changing the food desert into an organic food oasis.

Are you familiar with ‘food deserts’? I’m curious to know whether there is awareness of this issue. Let me know!

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  • Kessley  November 3, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Food Deserts are very common in the Urban area where I grew up. Luckily I had parents who went out of their way to drive to natural food stores so that we could eat healthy foods. But one does see it mainly in ethinic minority areas where many health issues such as obesity, heart problems and high blood pressure are combined with lack of exercise due to a lack of there being a safe space to go out and walk or run. Processed Junk food + Stationary living= a recipe for disaster. It’s an epidemic!

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