Food deserts are a growing problem in select areas around the country. They tend to occur in low income zones. What this means is that there is no access to a grocery store that has healthy, fresh products for miles in every direction. The distance could even be as far as 10 or more miles away. What there often is in its place is fast food, liquor stops and convenience stores.
Often the argument for these markets to relocate to other neighborhoods is that they won’t make enough profit off of people with low income or social security benefits. That doesn’t add up when there are multiple liquor stops within a mile. When expensive, non-necessities like cigarettes and alcohol are easier to access than fresh and healthy food, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
In like manner, fresh produce that is sold in convenience stores tends to be of lesser quality and higher price than produce from a grocery store. Not only that but the inventory is severely limited. The majority of what’s sold is candy, chips and an assortment of other junk foods.
Unfortunately many people in these areas don’t have personal transportation. This lack of mobility causes most people to have to bus long distances in order to bring home real unprocessed foods. Even then, they are very limited on how many bags they are able to carry back. This doesn’t even cover the struggle of those who have a disability or the elderly. With this broad spectrum of folks it makes it particularly difficult to stay healthy. Often times they must rely on soup kitchens or volunteers that deliver food neighborhood to neighborhood, yet even then those aren’t always stable sources.
In terms of youth, it has been shown that poor and unbalanced diets lead to attention and behavior problems. Children need to eat healthy to prevent stunted mental development and other adverse effects. If children can’t focus and behave in school, then they can’t continue their mental growth through learning.
A complex problem will certainly not have an easy solution. This in no way means there shouldn’t be steps taken to address this. If the situation isn’t helped, then that only leaves room for it to grow worse. America prides itself on being the land of plenty and equal opportunity, but clearly that isn’t the case if society is turning a blind eye to this problem.
From where I currently live there are 12 grocery stores within less than five miles from my home. A large chunk of those are within a two mile range. Comparatively, in a 16 mile stretch from West Seattle to Renton there are nearly half the amount of supermarkets.
Making supermarkets more available is the first step in the right direction. In the beginning it won’t be a one size fits all scenario. The next step after availability would be outreach and education. The local government that manages budgets as well as communities needs to make access to healthy food a priority. Average people can lend a helping hand by volunteering at soup kitchens that rely almost fully on volunteers.
This type of issue isn’t going to fix itself overnight. Addressing this problem now – head on – will potentially improve obesity and other diet-related problems such as diabetes, heart disease and overall health. So what if spending money on extra grocery stores here and there doesn’t make enough profit? Humans are far more valuable and important than money.