Creating Oases in Food Deserts
Great news for the health of America’s underserved communities! First Lady Michelle Obama announced today she’s teamed up with some major retailers to fight food deserts in America.
For those of you not familiar with food deserts, it is believed that they contribute to many of the catastrophic health problems we see in underserved communities. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert is an area in which 33% or 500 people, whichever is lower, live more than one mile away from a grocery store in an urban area and more than 10 miles away in a rural area. What this translates to is minimal access to healthy and affordable foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.
At the Bernard Center, one of the focuses of our Moms and Dads Know Best campaign is raising awareness of these food deserts and our moral obligation as a nation to eradicate them. Now, with chains including Wal-Mart, Walgreens and SuperValu, Inc., committing to bringing their healthy products and low prices into these neighborhoods, parents will better be able to feed their children the nutritious foods they’ve been missing.
USA Today reports the White House’s Domestic Policy Council believes the changes will serve about 9.5 million people and create tens of thousands of jobs as these stores open. The paper goes on to say the efforts include:
- Wal-Mart will open up to 300 stores in food deserts between now and 2016, and already has opened 218 stores in such neighborhoods since 2007.
- Walgreens will expand its food offerings to including fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthful choices at least 1,000 stores.
- SuperValu will build 250 Save-A-Lot stores over the next five years in areas that have little to no access to fresh produce.
Steps like these will do so much to promote healthy lives across America and are a better alternative to fighting childhood obesity than the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Food Marketed to Children’s proposed guidelines of severely limiting the foods and beverages advertised to children. The only results we can expect to see if these proposed “voluntary” guidelines are accepted are additional job losses across the country, an increase in the cost of many relatively healthy foods, such as low-fat yogurt and most cereals and a damping down on innovation. We would be better served if the IWG focused its efforts on eradicating food deserts.