Take a moment to think about a time when you were hungry. Think of how easy it was to grab food in your fridge when you knew it was there. If you did not have food in your fridge, think about how far you needed to travel to your closest supermarket. Now what about how much healthy food was accessible to you, whether in your house or just a five-minute commute away at the grocery store.

Could you cure your own hunger in minutes with food that is proved to help you live longer? Now think in another direction: Maybe you don’t have food in your fridge. Maybe the closest supermarket is miles away and you do not own a car. Your choices are limited to the fast food place around the corner or the convenient store at the end of the block. Living with constant limited access to healthy food or even supermarkets describes the experience of 30 million people living in what is known as a food desert.

What is a Food Desert?

The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as “vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy foods.”

And for many Americans, living in a food desert means being unable to access food that can help them lead healthy lives. The right foods can help reduce obesity, prevent disease and provide the necessary nutrition for people to thrive.

Additionally, research shows food deserts are prevalent in low-income areas because supermarkets are less likely to build there. This is one example of how economic disparity can lead to limitations in access to resources, as well as better health opportunities.

Eliminating Food Deserts

So how can we help eliminate food deserts altogether? The Food Trust and research institute PolicyLink are working together towards policy change with entrepreneurs and food retailers by using the USDA Food Access Research Atlas, which details areas that have little to no access to supermarkets.

However, building supermarkets isn’t the only solution. According to foodtank, individuals and organizations are donating their time and services to devise alternative solutions to the food desert problem. Community gardens, produce trucks and and grants to grocers who build in underserved areas are a few of the initiatives happening around the country.


Original contribution by Lucy Brennan-Levine.