Fighting Food Deserts

July 14, 2014

Millions of Americans live in areas classified as food deserts—areas without stores that carry affordable, fresh, and nutritious food—which can result in widespread health problems. While there are many criteria involved in classifying an area as a food desert, the USDA points to a few main factors:

  • Location and availability: Are there stores in the area that sell healthy food? How far are these stores from families in need?
  • Accessibility: Can families afford the food at the available stores? Do families have a vehicle or access to public transportation to get to and from the store safely?

The USDA has also found that people living in food deserts tend to have lower levels of education, lower incomes, and higher rates of unemployment. The bottom line? People living in poorer areas often don’t have access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, and other foods that make up a healthy, nutritious diet. And this lack of access is leading to higher rates of obesity and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But a recent report from PBS NewsHour points out that simply building more grocery stores and markets in at-risk areas doesn’t entirely solve the problem of food deserts. People need nutrition education to learn about what types of foods to buy and how to prepare those foods for their families. And kids need exposure to new, healthy foods from a young age to help form life-long healthy eating habits.

tCI programs like the Kids Meal Program, the After-School Program, and the Youth Basketball League help give kids the nutrition education they need while also stressing the importance of physical activity in addition to a healthy diet. The Kids Meal Program also feeds neighborhood kids ages 3–18 a third healthy meal every weekday after school.

Your donation goes directly to these programs to help young people live healthy lives that allow them to do better in school, learn valuable life and job skills, and avoid gang violence while having fun with their friends.

Want to learn more about food deserts? Visit the USDA’s interactive food desert map to check out the food access information in your area.

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