What exactly are food deserts?
Food deserts are defined as areas without “access to grocery stores, farmers markets or other venders selling quality, affordable food” (Huffington Post). The current food desert population is said to be almost 400,000, down from almost 700,000 in 2006, with 1/3 of that being children. These individuals and families, predominately African American, have no access to fresh produce, meats, dairy, or grains, all necessary for a healthy diet. Instead, these neighborhoods are dependent on corner stores and fast food restaurants that carry mostly high fat, high sugar, packaged, and processed foods (Huffington Post). In most food desserts access to fast food restaurants and convenience stores are much easier than grocery stores, making processed, unhealthy foods much more accessible and affordable than fresh foods.
Food deserts in Chicago are more prominent than most residents think. According to a report from Fox Chicago grocery stores in the Chicago area are very unevenly distributed. There are nearly two dozen grocery stores in the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, but head west or south and this number drops dramatically. For residents of these neighborhoods getting fresh, nutritional groceries isn’t an easy task. Instead they choose to save time and run across the street to a fast food restaurant or convenience store to get a quick, fatty meal.
Most residents of food deserts do not try and go out of their way to find healthier food options until health problems have already surfaced.