The Access to Healthy Foods in Low Income Communities

Food deserts are big problems that involve high rates of obesity, but others may believe otherwise. Food deserts are areas where people have to rely on transportation to get to their nearest grocery store and that can be miles away. These areas are located mainly around poor communities. Some people believe that you can help food desert areas by opening up more food restaurants and grocery stores. But there are people who believe that it’s not the matter of giving more food access but to provide these communities with fresh foods to improve their diets. Some people might not have cars therefore are forced to use public transportation or have to walk holding the bags of heavy food. Food deserts are a big deal that connects to high obesity rates. Not being able to have access to grocery stores can lead a person to buy their food from convenience stores or buy cheap fast food that’s already made. And there is one of the facts, that low income neighborhoods have more fast food restaurants than in any wealthy neighborhood. Which is the reason that low income communities have high rates of obesity.

Food deserts aren’t a good thing, nor should they be avoided. It’s one of the biggest leading causes of obesity, and not just obesity but diabetes too. When it’s someone’s health at risk I believe it’s something that should not be pushed aside. An article on PBS Newshour, The Socio-Economic Significance of Food Deserts by Dante Chinni, describes why food deserts are important and why it’s one of the most significant causes of obesity and diabetes. Chinni states, “In 2006, 2.4 million households were located in food deserts, defined for households as being more than a mile from a supermarket with no access to a vehicle”(2011). Here Chinni is using statistics to inform the reader about the amount of people living in areas where there is no access to get fresh foods, but the numbers he gives us might have increased throughout the years. Chinni also informs us with, “This suggests that people in food deserts may be substituting less nutritious fast food for the produce and other fresh food they have only limited access to.” Before this he was explaining how counties with high rates of food deserts also tend to have more fast food restaurants around those areas. So it’s not that these communities have no access to food what so ever, but have no access to healthy foods. They have bad food choices like fast food, or getting their food from their nearest convenience store. Rather than having the access to grocery stores or healthy foods that is better for them.

Although, through the years people have been getting involved to help poor communities in food deserts. Like Michelle Obama, helping out trying to open more grocery stores near those communities and campaigning to help out these communities. There are a lot of alternative grocery shopping ways that are becoming more useful to communities in food deserts. There are fresh food companies that send food to people’s homes that many people don’t know about. The article How the Amazon-Whole Foods Merger Shrinks Food Deserts, by Jack Karsten and Darrell West, explains how Amazon has made it possible for people to grocery shop online. They mention, “For many Americans living in food deserts, online food retailers may not just be the most convenient way to stock their refrigerators, but the only way”(2017). Explaining that these communities have low access to healthy foods, so their only way is to go shopping online for food. They also explain how low income communities have less supermarkets than in wealthy communities. But in the article Food Deserts Aren’t the Problem by Heather T. Gillian, she explains how putting more supermarkets in low income communities isn’t actually helping these communities. Gillian believes that giving these communities more access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables would make these communities more healthier and improve their diets. She also mentions “In fact, researchers who focus on health disparities have suspected for decades that people who live in poverty die early because of the stress of poverty itself rather than the poor health choices low-income people make”(2014), which explains how food deserts aren’t really the leading cause for low income community death rates. But it is still a big cause for obesity and other disorders. Although this alternative and different point of view, many people still believe that opening more grocery stores would be the best solution. But what these people don’t see is the cost of doing so.

Food deserts are a big epidemic that affects mainly the low income communities, but one of the problems to helping food deserts is the cost of building new grocery stores in the neighborhood. In these communities it is hard to get the money to build industrial businesses. These communities can not afford to build supermarkets in the empty spaces, the only way those empty spaces can be accommodated is if big companies, like the fast food industries buy the space. Some of the implications of food deserts in the low income neighborhood are keeping the the supermarkets open. The United States Department of Agriculture published a book about food deserts and building more supermarkets. This book goes in deep about the cost of keeping stores open and stable. Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences(2010), the book talks about food access, the relationship to food choices, policy options, community food projects, the economics of supermarkets, and some other good points. But focusing on the economics of supermarkets, I pulled out a quote from the book that help me understand these implications. “In general, supply is driven by the costs of input goods — in this case, the land, materials, machines, and labor needed to build and operate a grocery store and the costs of products to stock the shelves”(chapter 6), from my understanding of this quote keeping a stable store can be hard especially when there is no out come happening. This indicates the understanding for people asking for more grocery stores, but them not realizing the cost to the community it would take. The high prices they make is to help them pay for most of the costs. If the prices for the produce is too expensive for the customer the store will not get any sales. Due to the fact that many of the produce in grocery stores is high makes many people choose the poor food choice. But the prices for the food aren’t because of the seller but because of the way the grocery stores need to run. That’s why in many low income communities you see many retail stores shut down, because they are not making much sales. That’s the same way most of these grocery stores run. Building a grocery store and keeping it stable making sure you are getting sales is hard to do. Especially in low income communities, the fact that most of these people work minimum wage and just have enough to buy some groceries they tend to choose the cheapest items or the foods that are already prepared. Making bad food choices because of the expence. These grocery stores lose produces because no one is buying them, and that makes them lose money. Which is why many store are shut down or either move to other communities. So for the people who believe it’s better to open more grocery stores, they should look more into the cost it would impact their community. Once the grocery store is open will they like the prices it comes with? Because those extra taxes would be what’s helping the store pay off it’s debt and stay open.

These are some points that some people have about food deserts, and that being the biggest cause of obesity and people’s health in low income communities. People having the access to healthy food is important to their diets and health. Many people are not so informed about food deserts and it’s outcomes. So being informed about this is important. But also the understanding of alternative methods to get their produce can be something that would help these communities. Mainly because of the whole cost of building supermarkets and grocery stores can be a set down for the community. But for further suggestion to help food deserts can be to shop online and get their produce delivered. Or for some people to find alternative ways to help their situation. Or simple donations from big corporations to build market around the areas.

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