When you're on a long road trip, it is pretty impossible to find a healthy restaurant or grocery store.
I usually keep my eyes peeled for a Panera Bread so I can get my go-to “you pick 2”. When I am out of luck, I'll usually try my best with the options available at you're typical rest stop (grilled nuggets from chic-fil-a are ideal) but a lot of the time I just give up and get an unhealthy fast food option such as Wendy’s - and yeah, I don’t hate it! It is great to have from time to time!
However, after a few fast-food stops, those oily/fried foods have me feeling pretty terrible.
For some people, this is the reality of what food options they have available to them. The nearest healthy restaurant or supermarket is many miles away. These areas are known as food deserts.
Food deserts are areas in which residents are hard-pressed to find affordable, healthy food—are part of the landscape of poor, urban neighborhoods across the United States (2). In America, 23.5 million people live in low-income, low-access areas (Food Fix). A study shows that food deserts are disproportionately found in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 55% of all ZIP codes with a median income below $25,000 are described as food deserts (8).
Poverty is a major factor in food insecurity and creating food deserts. USDA defines food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food or the limited or uncertain ability to acquire such food for a household (4).
There are many health implications living in these areas because lack of healthy produce means turning to the ultra-processed foods. People in food deserts grow up thinking that this processed food is normal and supposed to be what they are eating. These food-insecure places are the most obese areas in America, and the people are not to be blamed.
The people are schemed by the marketing of Big Food companies to continue to eat this addictive, malnourished food. Approximately 60% of our calories in the US come from ultra-processed foods consumed by poor minorities, young less educated people consuming the most. This causes an increased rate of heart diseases and diabetes (Food Fix).
Something has to be done to rescue these people from the trap of Big Food and find healthy produce.
You may think the answer is simply adding supermarkets to these food deserts. However, studies found that if you compared neighborhoods considered food deserts and neighborhoods with an abundance of high-quality food, both consumers had similar food buying practices (3). Likewise, “the influence of introducing healthier foods into a neighborhood may be tempered by the continued accessibility of unhealthy food. (7)”
Although access is crucial, strategies to promote nutritional education and zoning laws to defend fast-food chains must be put into effect to shift nutritional choices.
In Washington DC a volunteer organization called Roots For Life educates and empowers communities to thrive by eradicating food deserts and food insecurity. They help individuals in food-insecure areas to locally grown fruits and vegetables, educate nutritional value, and empower a healthy change in their lives (1).
Ron Finley is known as the “Gangsta Garden” from South Central LA. He lives in a food PRISON and couldn’t find a tomato for miles and miles away. He decided to plant on his curb and got in trouble. He took action and changed local laws. Now, he started curbside gardens and educates the youth community to do the same. He is turning the food prison to a food FOREST!
In West Oakland California, there’s a People’s Grocery that is a mobile grocery store to bring produce to the local community.
In the Bronx, Karen Washington founded black urban growers and supports black and urban-rural farmers. Abandoned lots became gardens and farmer’s markets (Food Fix)!
The issue of food deserts is real.
Moving more supermarkets nearby is not the only answer but education on nutritional value is vital to see change and improvement in health. With everyone on board to help all Americans eat real food, hopefully, all rest stops will have healthy options, and people will not be tempted to the unhealthy options with their new education!
6) Food Fix by Mark Hyman