Food Deserts: The Silent Killer in Developed Countries



Hunger to me is the sensation inside my stomach telling me that it is time to refuel. I am very fortunate to never have experienced real hunger. In most parts of America we do not have to worry about what we will eat that day, we just know it will be there for our taking. It is really easy to forget how privileged we are to live in a country where we can feel protected and safe.  imagesPeople still struggle with obtaining enough food for them and their family and fall through the metaphorical cracks of society. World hunger has been a hot topic in the news for a couple of years now. We are just starting to understand the correlations between unhealthy food, low-income communities, and crime. Food deserts are areas, usually in developed countries, where there is a shortage of food. In these regions there is food but it in unhealthy and innutritious. This leads to diseases and expensive health bills. This vicious cycle does not have one simple solution to fix it, it will take much effort along with time to cure this epidemic that is plaguing developed nations like the United States and China. Malnutrition is one of the biggest worries about food deserts, children are not being given the proper medial expertise and healthier food they need in the early stages of their life. Education could be used as a lever to pry these communities out of the hole they have found themselves in. Many people in the low-income communities do not want to go to a grocery store because they have trouble making the healthy decisions instead of what their eyes tell them they want.

One of the first things to come to most people’s minds when talking about food deserts is malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when someone does not get enough nutrients in their diet. They may be eating enough to keep them full but this does not mean that their bodies are getting the crucial ingredients it needs to power us through the day. Malnourishment is commonly seen in children who live within food deserts. Diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular problems run rampant in the low-income communities where food deserts reside. “Individuals living in food deserts have a cardiovascular disease death rate of 11.07% and a diabetes death rate of 1.27% compared to respective rates of 5.72% and .56% in non-food deserts—a statistically significant difference.” (Rao Birju, Food Deserts Are Incredibly Complex Problems, Kevin These statistics have a very substantial gap in between them. The quality of living in these low-income, crime burdened communities is much lower that the quality of life in the middle class and upper class communities. Children in food desert areas are stuck in the vicious cycle of malnourishment and low-incomes leading to crime.

Education is a major tool in fixing the problem of food deserts in developed and undeveloped countries. Children are not being educated about their eating habits. Simply building a new grocery store in a food-deprived community will not solve the problem by itself. People in these areas do not want to go to the new grocery stores because they see a great deal of food. The junk food catches the eyes of their children. This creates a problem because families end up spending more money in the grocery stores than they originally planned to and they are not once again eating food with little to no nutritional value.

“When you shop in a modern supermarket, you’re assaulted- your senses are assaulted. There’s a greater range of choice that can tempt some families to overspend or purchase foods that don’t compromise elements of a healthy meal. So if your trying to avoid all these other temptations or incentives to not spend money in the way you would like, then you often avoid those kinds of opportunities to purchase food” (Steven Cummins)store-food-desert-junk-food-beth-hoffman-616

Adding a new grocery store to a community within a food desert will not fix the problem on its own. Even if new grocery stores open up in food deserted communities people still don’t go to the new stores. People want to stick to what they know, their tradition. Change is scary for some people. There are correlations between poor nutrition in low-income communities and crime rates. Also the clinics in these areas are not top-notch clinics. They lack proper funding in therefore cannot give adequate medical attention to patients in these areas.

Many of these patients cannot afford health care like a great deal of the population of the America. There are ways for people who do not have enough money to give them and their children health care help. Us, as citizens of America have to pay a tax so that people in these circumstances can receive the attention they need. This is all because they live in low-income areas and do not have a viable option to make the money that they need to survive in a healthy manner. Most of the families do not have a mode of transportation to get them far distances for groceries. Once at the grocery store people end up spending money on unwanted food that does not hold a very high nutritional value. A lot of grocery stores do not see a reason to put up a grocery store in areas of low-income. They fear that their store will not make enough profit and therefore shut down. “1 out of 5 grocery stores in rural areas goes out of business in the last 4 years.” (Center For Rural Affairs) Stores like McDonalds, 7-11, and many other small corner convenient stores take the place of the grocery stores. They cannot fill the big shoes that a grocery store carries with them. These convenient stores do not have the nutritious foods that a grocery store has inside.  People in food deserts have to rely on food from these stores or some how grow it on their own. This is why we starting to see obesity and diabetes at younger ages, these kids are not getting the proper food they need in the early stages of their lives. Would growing your own food work in a low-income community in a rural or urban area? It makes sense for people to grow their own food in rural areas. They have open land that is waiting to be used to grow nutritious food from the ground. This is also a good way to teach children good life lessons like the value and importance of talking care of things.  On the other hand, growing your own food in an urban area could prove to be a more difficult task. Rooftop farming could be one way to work closer towards the goal of eradicating food desserts. This would not work for everyone because not every family in urban areas live in a house, some people live in apartments with other families above them.

Some states are trying things like opening new grocery stores in areas designated as food deserts. “States like Pennsylvania expanding food grocer outlets-giving 500,000 kids and adults access to healthy food.” (Sarah Corapi, Why it takes more than a grocery store to eliminate a ‘Food Desert’) This is a good start and it has many benefits but this will not fix the problem of a food desert by itself. The government is also trying to come up with some solutions such as the Department of Agriculture mapping thousands of places of low-income areas in the United States that are suspected food deserts. It is hard to convince people to spend more money on food when they are trying to save as much money as they can sometimes living paycheck to paycheck. In most cases the unhealthier food is cheaper than the healthy food at a grocery store. The large corporations like McDonalds and 7-11 can afford to sell their food at a low price because it is low quality. On the other side of the argument some speculate bringing in new grocery stores will do nothing but help the families in these communities. People living in low-income communities could have the option of eating healthy food instead of junk food with no nutritional value. They also have the opportunity to get a new job at the newly opened grocer. Bringing in grocer outlets could spark the economy in struggling communities. It could be the opportunity for some to get their live back on track so they can better support their

Food deserts often are found in communities that are predominantly African American. These communities consist of low-income families, some living paycheck to paycheck. Does race play a part in designation where food deserts occur in America? Education is a large factor in moving towards healthier communities, if people do not know what the healthy food options are they will most likely not get the healthier choice. Junk food in today’s world is painted with bright, flashy colors used to draw your eye into them and eventually buy the product. This leads to malnutrition, which is one of the main focuses and worries about food deserts. People, especially young adolescents, are not receiving the proper nutrients they need to live a healthy life. There is much need of a grocery store in these communities but bring a grocery store to a low-income, food deprived community does not ensure that people will start using the new grocery store. Grocery stores are expensive and a lot of families in these areas do not have extra money lying around. Food deserts are very complex and there are many different factors that cause it to happen, there is also not one clear solution to fixing the problem.




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