“Food Deserts”: A look into the framework behind and the affect of inequitable food access.

It is generally understood that there are vast inequalities across the globe in food access. What is alarming, however, is the degree of inequity in access to healthy, affordable food within one community
or city. Upon taking a closer look at communities which have lessened access to healthy food and fresh produce, or “food deserts”, it is apparent that this phenomenon is not random. These inequalities disproportionately affect neighborhoods with larger amounts of Black and Brown residents.

In Philadelphia, for example, much of the city’s residents do not have access to a grocery store within one mile of their home. According to the USDA, neighborhoods which experience the least access to grocery stores include Strawberry Mansion, Fairhill, East Germantown, Kensington, and Allegheny West.
These neighborhoods are also the home to majority People of Color and areas with the lowest income in
the city.

This organization is not unintentional. Health food grocery corporation Whole Foods has been repeatedly criticized for placing their stores in high-income neighborhoods. Worse, this chain has a
history of establishing their stores in areas where the residents cannot afford their ridiculously high prices in a successful attempt to gentrify the area and push out its residents.

Other health food stores, such as Trader Joe’s, is known for establishing branches exclusively in high-
income areas, despite being known for its affordable health food prices. This practice serves to further segregate low-income communities from access to affordable and healthy food options.

Representative Marcia Fudge (D- Ohio), member of the Congressional Black Caucus, says “While Whole
Foods may have a limited presence in many of our districts, further consolidation may force grocers who
have a stronger brick-and-mortar presence in our communities to respond to this merger. As a result, it is possible these grocers will consolidate further and close stores that offer any, or the only, option to low-income communities.”

In East Germantown, the nearest grocery store is a twenty-minute bus ride for most residents, a circumstance which has been the reality for more than forty years. According to the The Food Trust,
“Research has shown that you are where you eat, that the neighborhood you live in has a profound impact on the food choices you make.” Furthermore, “Research also demonstrates the
economy of lower-income communities is positively influenced by improved food access. For example, the development or presence of a grocery store can create jobs, stimulate investment in the neighborhood and anchor complementary retail.”

Consuming healthy food is the greatest contributor to our ability to thrive, life expectancy, and mental
health. It stimulates economic growth, pulls families from poverty, and facilitates our brain to learn. It is our most basic need as humans. And yet it is a “privilege” 23.5 million Americans do not have.

Sources: Future Foods, USDA

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