Since Mari Gallagher’s 2006 breakthrough study on Chicago Food Deserts (Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago), there has been a flurry of news in Chicago on both the problem and potential solutions. Community groups, city officials, policy makers, and industry leaders have stepped up to take action.
There is not one single cause of Food Deserts and not one single solution. Everyone can do something. Much has happened in Chicago since 2006, and we have been tracking those changes. Go to www.marigallagher.com to view the original study, a 2008 update (released in 2009), and a 2010 update. To keep up with what is going on in Chicago and elsewhere, visit the Projects page.
The National Council of La Raza recently published a factsheet titled, The Food Environment and Latino’s Access to Healthy Foods, as part of their 2010 Profiles of Latino Health.
In the factsheet, NCLR summarizes recent research on Hispanic families’ access to healthy foods, finding:
- Hispanic families are less likely than non-Hispanic White families to live in neighborhoods where healthy food is available and sold at affordable prices.
- For Latinos living in neighborhoods where affordable, healthy food is scare, families may have difficulty obtaining transportation to obtain such foods.
Why is this important? Mainstream grocery stores are more likely to carry a wide range of food and fresh produce than smaller stores. NCLR reports that Hispanic neighborhoods are about 1/3 less likely to have a chain supermarket.
For obtaining healthy foods, reliable transportation is important. Low-income families relying on public transportation may be limited in the quantity and quality of foods they can purchase, especially fresh produce.
The factsheet also summarizes the connection between access to healthy food and health outcomes. Specifically, access to chain supermarkets has been correlated with decreased body mass index. In one study, children living in areas with lower costs for fruits and vegetables gained less weight than their counterparts living in high cost areas. This correlation was most exaggerated in Hispanic (and Asian) communities.
To download the factsheet, click here.
Established in 1733, Savannah is known as America’s first planned city. Early in its history, farmers discovered that the climate and soil were favorable to the cultivation of cotton, rice, and lush backyard gardens full of great varieties of nutrient-rich produce. But similar to what has happened in other places across America, local residents over time became more and more disenfranchised from locally produced good food.
In Savannah, food balance was determined as the appropriate measure to assess food offerings. These scores show a relative measure of how easy or difficult it is to reach mainstream food over fringe food. The guiding principal is that consumers will shop most regularly at the stores nearest to where they live. The map below shows detailed findings conducted block-by-block in and surrounding areas of Savannah. The red areas show the most of out of balance areas.
For more information on the research conducted in Savannah, including neighborhood specific maps, click here.
Recently, research was conducted in Birmingham, Alabama on the Impact of Food Deserts and Food Imbalance on Public Health.
The work, which was sponsored by Main Street Birmingham, found:
-Over 88,000 people live on blocks were mainstream grocers are distant (e.g. food deserts) or where both grocers are distant and unhealthy food is readily available (e.g. food imbalance) – covering over 43 square miles and including 23,000 children, and
-Living in these areas impacts both the length and quality of life.
To see an executive summary of the research findings, click here. For more information on Main Street Birmingham and their work to combat food deserts, check out The Urban Food Project.
Yesterday, the American Dietetic Association updated its position on food insecurity, calling for increased funding and education efforts to promote “self-sufficiency” in all households. In the same paper, the ADA reported that 49 million Americans experienced food insecurity in 2008.
The updated position follows:
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that systematic and sustained action is needed to achieve food and nutrition security for all in the United States. To eliminate food insecurity, interventions are needed, including adequate funding for and increased utilization of food and nutrition assistance programs, inclusion of food and nutrition education in such programs, and innovative programs to promote and support individual and household economic self-sufficiency.
The full position paper can be found in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.