Food Deserts Contribute to Poor Health in America

Saturday, May 29, 2010 by: Jeremiah Smith, PharmD
Tags: food desert, cities, health news

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(NaturalNews) According to the White House, 23.5 million Americans currently live in what is known as a 'food desert.' Essentially, a food desert is a place that lacks reasonable, affordable access to grocery stores with fresh produce and other healthy foods. These places are often served by convenience stores and fast food restaurants, leaving very few options for those who wish to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Food deserts are most common in rural areas and inner cities. It isn't hard to imagine a scarcity of health food stores in a small, rural town, but you might not expect the same to be true in the heart of a large city. One cause of the grocery store shortage experienced by some inner cities has been store closings. Ironically, many storefronts are converted into pharmacies that profit from the sale of processed foods, in addition to medications for diseases brought on by poor diet.

Daily food choices are influenced by more than just individual preference. Physical and financial factors also come into play. In many cases, the nearest grocery store is simply out of reach due to its distance. The distance factor most strongly impacts low-income individuals, the elderly and those with disabilities. Vehicle ownership status, availability of public transportation, and sidewalk layout are other important considerations. High crime rates in certain areas may also deter individuals from passing through in order to go grocery shopping. Compounding the problem is the fact that healthy foods are generally more expensive on a calorie-by-calorie basis, as compared to processed junk foods.

Collectively, these barriers to access are partially responsible for America's obesity and diabetes epidemic. The Department of City Planning in New York City has examined the association between a lack of grocery stores and prevalence of diet-related illness. Areas with the lowest availability of fresh food were also those reporting the highest percentage of residents with obesity and diabetes. The lack of local food markets was found to be most severe in poor, minority neighborhoods.

The relationship between socioeconomic status, race, food deserts and health isn't limited to New York City. A number of studies have found the same connection in other cities including Chicago, Detroit and Louisville.


"Taking on Food Deserts" The White House Blog

"Food desert" Wikipedia

New York City's Neighborhood Grocery Store and Supermarket Shortage

About the author

Jeremiah Smith is a licensed and practicing pharmacist with a strong interest in nutrition and natural medicine. He is driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping others achieve optimal health. Smith writes articles on a range of topics related to wellness. You can visit his website at (

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