I drive by a food desert everyday!
If you don’t know what a food desert is, let’s head to Wikipedia and find out.
In general, there is no specific agreed-upon definition for the term. An initial definition counts the type and quality of foods available for purchase and the neighborhood residents being impoverished and unable to buy such foods. A second definition takes into account “access, or the degree to which individuals live within close proximity to a large supermarket or supercenter”, which offers “consumers a wider array of food choices at relatively lower costs.” Such a definition weights “the number, type and size of food stores available to residents.” One study counted food deserts as “urban areas with 10 or fewer (grocery) stores and no stores with more than 20 employees.” The existence of multiple definitions which can even change by country and the uncertainty over the exact measures by which a food desert can be recognized have fueled controversy over the existence of food deserts.
Maps, showing the distribution of food deserts in the United States can be found in Morton and Blanchard’s 2007 article.
So I found think link to the Morton and Blanchard’s article and found these measurements.
- Rural areas risk becoming “food deserts” as young families move away and market pressures continue to squeeze small grocers and retailers. Food deserts are defined as counties in which all residents must drive more than 10 miles to the nearest supermarket chain or supercenter.
- The Great Plains are especially lacking in easy-access grocers.
- The residents of food deserts tend to be older, poorer, and less educated.
- Health can be compromised by lack of food access. Many do not consume adequate amounts of fresh fruits or vegetables, and they often lack adequate dairy and protein in their diet.
- Wal-Mart and other superstores are not always cheaper on all food items, leaving room for a competitive advantage for smaller grocers.
Fully armed with knowledge I peaked at the map to see this:
If you don’t live near me this might not mean anything, but my route to work starts on Independence Pky, turns onto Renner along the north end of the green zone, I dip into the green zone, and drive right through the middle of the Food Desert until I reach Custer Parkway and continue on my way to work. So I know this area pretty well.
Off the top of my head, I know there is a Wal-mart and a Sam’s Club to the northwest side, a Target a stones throw away from the southwest corner, and a Tom Thumb just north of the northeast corner. But those fall outside of that roughly 3-mile wide – one mile high swath of food desert that we worry about. Though just to the south of that curved green line (that’s a railroad line, and to the north is industrial parks and a new retirement community) is a Central Market grocery store (H.E.B.’s answer to Whole Foods). Also in that swath of green is the University of Texas at Dallas Campus, a Driving Range and a large swatch of heretofore undeveloped land. The developed land to the east of UTD is some upper middle class neighborhoods, as well as a country club with a golf course. I truly worry about the population in this deprived area.
In short if that area is a food desert, please find me a house there (preferably the one near the 18th fairway with the nice view of the green).
Just for giggles, plug in an address near you and see what the USDA is considering a food desert near you! I’m sure glad tax-dollars went into making this map. To see a non-tax payer funded map of the area with indicators of where to find “grocery stores” click here.