“Food deserts, not to be confused with food desserts”
Everyone loves a tasty dessert. I could name off a few and my mouth would start watering.
For a lot of our mobile-market participants, desserts (and other processed foods) are EASY to find when you live in a food desert. Fruits and vegetables, not so much.
Food deserts are sneaky, you see, because of the many subtle factors that contribute to it. You could live right next to one and not even know it!
Food deserts are found by looking for the census tracts (subdivisions of ~4,000 people inside of a county) with low income and low access to grocery stores.
A low income census tract is defined when at least 20% of the census tract is under the poverty line, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
A low access census tract can be defined by showing that 33% or more residents of a census tract must travel a mile (in urban areas) or ten miles (in rural areas) to reach the nearest grocery store.
According to the USDA, 12.8% of the US population fit the low income/low access criteria.
A food desert exists here in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, surprisingly enough. The residents of two of our downtown mobile-market locations have to travel a mile to get to a grocery store with fresh produce. Many of them are elderly or in wheelchairs and getting to the supermarket is difficult, to say the least.
We have a ongoing series called Q&A Thursday where our executive director, Josh Harris, explains terms related to the food access system. Josh continues our series with some field reporting on the topic of food deserts at two of our downtown mobile-market locations.
Take a look.