By Michelle Mitchum, MPH, and HHP
A food desert, (as defined by Webster’s), is an urban area in which it is particularly difficult to get fresh food. This is usually due to the lack of grocery stores and farmers markets. Living in a city like New York, or any other major metropolitan area in the world, you would think it would be a challenge to find a food desert. The unfortunate truth is, food deserts are common in most major US cities, including:
• Chicago, IL
• New York, NY
• Detroit, MI
• Atlanta, GA
• New Orleans, LA
• Atlanta, GA
• Minneapolis, MN
• Memphis, TN
With all of the affluence, education and resources in the United States, issues of hunger, malnutrition, and lack of access confuse me. There are over 500 billionaires…. yes, BILLIONAIRES, in the US, and in New York City, there are over 300K millionaires. So, HOW is it possible that issues such as this, plague this country? Why are people living in cities, where millionaires and billionaires reside, but there are communities with no access to nutritious food?
In some affluent communities, food deserts are intentional, where privacy is a priority, and neighbors are sometimes ten miles apart. However, in low income areas that are void of grocery stores and farmers markets, are often unusually dense in fast food restaurants, and small local markets that are laden with processed foods and unhealthy alternatives. In these communities, there are increased cases vb of food related illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc.
While this is an unfortunate truth, it is a reality for over 20 million Americans, with over half being low-income. So, what are some solutions for those who live in areas void of nutritional resources? Here are a few of suggestions:
• Collaborate with community leaders and members to lobby to bring major food retailers to the neighborhood.
• Collaborate with community members to plant a community garden
• Solicit regional farmers to participate in a local farmers market
• Coordinate with community members frequent trips to the nearest major food market
Even while living in a food desert, with a little work, and organizing, community members can ensure that they receive nutritious food.
Michelle Mitchum MPH, HHP, is a graduate of Morgan State University, (Baltimore, MD) and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, (New York). She has been featured on Fox Business News, Essence Magazine and is a contributing writer to Heart and Soul Magazine as well as other notable publications. In 2013 she founded the OrangeMoon Holistic Health and Wellness to empower people to make intelligent and informed decisions about their health and to introduce and educate clients on holistic lifestyle alternatives.