Food Deserts: What are they?

Have you heard about food deserts and not known what that meant? Are the food deSerts related to the sugary deSSerts we have after a meal?


As you might have picked up on in the previous sentence, deserts and desserts are spelled differently and mean distinct things. While desserts might be a positive thing, food deserts are negative; they are low-income areas which are more susceptible to health problems because of unequal access to supermarkets with affordable and nutritious food. There are many food deserts across America, and they unfortunately affect some populations more than others, due to factors like transportation and accessibility to resources.


Hemali Gauri, diabetes mortality and food deserts per state chart


The inaccessibility to food those who live in food deserts experience leads to more disease, specifically diabetes and obesity. As you can see from this data table, extracted from the 2019 & 2010 Census data, there is a correlation between the diabetes mortality of states and the amount of food deserts currently present. This shows that we have to take action against this issue and ensure more access to affordable, nutritious foods.



Hemali Gauri, chart of urban vs non-urban communities and vehicle access and food deserts percentage of tract sample


Of course, access to transportation differs based on the type of area. This chart shows that although people in rural areas have more access to vehicles, the percent of the tract sample that lives in a food desert is far greater. Although it is also interesting to see that urban populations are also affected by food deserts. You might ask, why is this the case? In cities, the cost of living and eating nutritious foods are generally higher and this leads to populations still not having access to healthy food. This issue is causing diseases throughout our country/world and steps need to be taken to alleviate this problem. Everyone should have access to healthy, affordable food.




Hemali Gauri, share of tract population living in areas classified as food deserts and their share of census respondents


Because food deserts data is limited, I must acknowledge that it may be skewed. My data came from the 2010 & 2019 census information, and it is not the most representative of the total population. This chart shows how much percent an ethnicity makes up the census data and what percent of the tract population was classified in a food desert. Clearly, Caucasian people make up most of the US Census respondents and occupy food deserts more than any other ethnicity. This could possibly be skewed due to minorities not responding or not receiving the Census questionnaire.



All in all, food deserts are an issue in the United States and measures are being taken to improve accessibility and access to those who live in these deserts. Food inequality also ties into this issue because sometimes people have access to grocery stores but are still forced to resort to fast-food or dollar stores because of finances. Hospitals like Arkansas Children’s, however, are attempting to combat these issues with food banks and local initiatives.



Do you want to help someone in a food desert? Do you need resources while living in a food desert? A Joshua Tree provides a list of resources for both those cases!


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Hemali Gauri

Haas Hall Academy Fayetteville

Junior

@hemalig_

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