Food desert is the condition in which there is the less availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other foods which keep us healthy. It occurs due to lack of grocery stores or fresh markets. People are deprived of various nutritional factors because of these conditions. Food deserts lacks giving healthy foods to people rather it promotes unhealthy products which are often higher in sugar amount or fat which contributes to nation’s obesity epidemic. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a food desert is found in low-income areas which means 20% of people fall at or below the poverty rate.
In these areas, there are no supermarkets with good nutritious food within one mile for approximately 500 people. This then makes people go to smaller stores in their neighborhood for food and resources, but these stores are usually small convenience stores, and they don’t carry many healthy food options. The Food deserts can be avoided by establishing a lot of grocery store which carry foods with all essential nutrients in every community.
Many people in low-income areas are then more likely to have bad diets and develop many health issues. In some food deserts, if there is good nutritious food, it is a lot of times too expensive for people to afford, so people end up buying cheaper less nutritious foods. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, in the city of Dallas alone, more than 450,000 people live in a food desert area (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). Many of these people live in the areas of Grand Prairie, Irving, and South Dallas. In the city of Fort Worth, the USDA data shows that many food deserts are found within the city’s downtown area, and this data shows that this is a food desert because not only are there few grocery stores, but there is little access to transportation.
According to the data from the US Census Bureau, the median income of families in Dallas is approximately $46,900, but the median income of people in food deserts of Dallas is approximately $36,980 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). The data also shows that 44.14% of families in food desserts make less than $35,000 a year and that 23.08% of families in these food deserts also use SNAP vouchers to help them afford food (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). According to the USDA, families who make $35,000 a year in Dallas are likely to need to spend 30% of their income on food to stay secure in food resources, and because of this, almost 473,700 people in Dallas are considered food insecure (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017). One of the things about food deserts is not just convenient access to good nutritious foods, but also the availability of transportation to get to a grocery store. Even though Dallas has the DART and the TRE can go between Dallas and Fort Worth, many stops are not accessible to food desert neighborhoods and grocery stores, so this makes it much harder for people to try to get nutritious food. Little access to nutritious food and little transportation leaves limited options for many people, and so they end up eating foods that are not very nutritious instead such as fast food. Recent research shows that areas known as food deserts are also considered to be “food swamps.” A food swamp is known as an area with lots of fast food places in a small area. According to the article, because these places of food deserts also have lots of fast food places, lots of people in these areas are likely to have health issues such as diabetes and obesity (Cooksey-Stowers et al., 2017). According to the Dallas Community Health Indicators by the Texas Department of States and Health Services, 62% of people in Dallas County are overweight or obese, and 49% of children grades 3-8 in Dallas are also overweight or obese. This makes sense because almost half of the people who live in Dallas County live in areas of food deserts and so are likely to live in areas of food swamps where there is more access to fast foods rather than to grocery stores.
According to the State Comptroller, due to poor nutrition-related diseases, many people do not end up going to work, and this leads to loss of production for many businesses including local governments. Since statistics show that food deserts are big indicators of the chances of people becoming obese or developing diseases such as diabetes and other health issue, the city of Dallas has been working to try to help solve this problem. According to the Dallas Office of Economic Development, in 2017 the city of Dallas offered grocery stores grant money to build grocery stores in food desert areas of South Dallas. However, even though the city is offering money to grocery stores to build in areas of food deserts, only two have been built so far. Dallas has also started several community gardens so people can have better access to vegetables and has a farmer’s market in Deep Ellum where people can buy healthier foods. According to the North Texas Food Bank, many initiatives have been made to help people have better access to healthier and more nutritious foods, with six different food bank initiatives in Dallas County alone. The city of Dallas is also currently looking at what other major cities have done to see how they can implement other similar strategies such as in Philadelphia where the city offers local corner stores grants to include healthy options and more fruits and vegetables instead of trying to get bigger grocery stores into these neighborhoods.
Based on the data and information available, I do not think that individual and community efforts alone are enough to help improve the availability of resources in food deserts. While it appears that there are many community members who want to help in community gardens, one article in the Dallas News points to the fact that many members of low-income communities do not have time to help manage these gardens. Much of the work to keep up these gardens in good condition relies on very few people. Another reason why this is not enough is that even though community gardens can be a good resource for access to fruits and vegetables, it takes a very long time for these fruits and vegetables to grow and when they do grow, they only last for a short amount of time and make very little amounts. Thus, this is not likely enough to provide for a large number of people who live in these food desert areas. Another reason why community efforts are likely not enough is that in many cities that have solutions and initiatives, it involves cities offering grant monies to companies or stores to help bring more nutritious foods to these areas. This means that even if communities stated that they want more access to better more nutritious foods, that unless they can offer money to local corner stores or major stores, things are not likely to change.
In conclusion, food deserts that are found in many low-income communities limit access to good nutritious and affordable foods. Between Dallas and Fort Worth, many food deserts can be found throughout the metroplex area. While some community initiatives are being done to help decrease these food deserts, this is not enough, and so local governments need to help the people of their communities. The best thing that people in food desert communities can do is to talk to their local representatives and ask them to help them bring attention to why it is so important for everyone to have access to good nutritious foods so that they can work together to develop plans to how they can increase access to these foods. By working together, local governments and community members can start to help solve this problem.