Food Deserts

“to be able to choose healthy foods you must first have access to them”
“health – like politics – must be local”
0 This is the argument behind focusing on Food Deserts
and Food Balance
2.3 million U.S. households (2.2%) live farther than a mile
from nearest supermarket with no access to a car. 23.5
million people live in low-income area over a mile from
nearest supermarket [However, only 11.5 million of these
(4.1% U.S. population) are themselves low-income]
6.5 million children live in food deserts.
6/10 American Adults are overweight
1/3 American Adults are obese
1/3 American children are overweight or obese
Highest levels of obesity are in census tracts with no
0 Food Balance scores are statistically related to higher
diabetes rates and obesity and observationally to increased
patterns of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Distance to
nearest grocery is even more strongly linked to BMI
0 COSTS: lost quality/length of life for those directly affected.
Higher medical costs, lost productivity, etc. for government
and employers. Lower wages for those with poorer early
life nutrition.
Close to Home
0 In Chicago:
0 55 square miles of Food Deserts with 383,954 people,
70% of whom are African American
Note: This is DOWN 30% in last year from 64 square miles and 550,382
people. In addition, Mayor Emanuel has pledged to reduce by
200,000 by 2015 and to eliminate food deserts by 2020.
0 Childhood Obesity rates in Illinois are double U.S. rates
AGC is not in a Food Desert nor is it marked as recently
transitioning from a Food Desert to a Food Oasis.
Some rather large addendums…
0 UNC – Chapel Hill study followed thousands of people over 15 years
and found that people do not eat more produce when have a
supermarket in the neighborhood
0 Relevant factors instead were INCOME and – for low-income men –
proximity to fast food restaurant
0 USDA one year study on access to healthy food found price to be
larger driver than location. Low-income households on average 1.8
miles from nearest supermarket but travel 4.9 miles to most
frequently used supermarket.
0 2001 survey found nearly 6% of U.S. households report accessrelated problems to getting food they wanted but over half of these
households also lacked enough money. More research needs done on
relative weight of access, availability, and price/income constraints.
0 In addition, eating MORE healthy foods – even if accomplished –
would not lower obesity unless accompanied by a reduction away
from unhealthy foods.
“If you go into most grocery stores
across America, the majority of the
store is chock-full of processed food
calling out to you from the packages,
‘Pick me! I’m tastier and more
convenient.’ And ringed around all of
this are good old veggies, with no
- Jamie Oliver
Portion sizes up.
Fat content up.
Cultural Values:
Hong Kong has skyhigh real-estate
prices and a high
density population
but the culture
values freshness.
½ of meals are
of the home.
0 So are food deserts THE problem?
0 Are they not the problem per say but a necessary first
step toward a larger solution?
“You can’t eat healthy if it’s not even a choice”
Solutions Proposed and in Progress
(some for Food Deserts and Access, some for the co-concerns)
0 Have the market do well by doing good: convince private
sector to pursue actual profits in these neighborhoods.
0 Walgreens initiative to turn 1,000 locations into ‘Food Oases’
0 Healthy Food Financing Initiative: incentivizing stores to open in
food deserts through tax credits, below-market and guaranteed
loans, and grants [and locally, Illinois Facilities Fund]
0 Obesity is expensive. Re-invest those costs into food access.
0 Raise and Enforce SNAP standards
0 Education on eating healthy and food preparation: ‘nudging’
0 Keep pushing fast food to involve and offer better options
0 MOBILE options: carts, delivery, vending machines, etc.
0 Foundational support and Micro-finance
A Harris Connection
(who I know would be happy to talk to us)
Terri Zhu, Harris ‘11, is current Board Member future Program
Director of Louis’ Groceries NFP, a three-person start-up working
to create a 2,500 square foot full-service grocery in Greater Grand
Crossing neighborhood (a food desert). Projecct will include a
kitchen in the back and food and cooking education and
demonstrations. It will also include normal grocery store JUNK
food. They will be gathering baseline and ongoing data of
consumption patterns and experimenting in product placement,
price variation, and class offerings affects on consumer choices.
“The idea is that once people have access to healthy food they
will automatically start eating healthier. We don’t necessarily
believe that is true…if people respond to price reductions,
perhaps cities should subsidize the price of vegetables rather
than pushing to open new stores if improved health outcomes
is the policy goal.”
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