To know your food, sometimes you have to speak the language.
Definition: Food Desert: A district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants.
The concept of ‘access’ may be interpreted in three ways.
- ‘Physical access’ to shops can be difficult if the shops are distant, the shopper is elderly or infirm, the area has many hills, public transport links are poor, and the consumer has no car. Also, the shop may be across a busy road, difficult to cross with children or with underpasses that some fear to use because of a crime risk. For some, such as the disabled, the inside of the shop may be hard to access physically if there are steps up or the interior is cramped with no room for walking aids. Carrying fresh food home may also be hard for some.
- ‘Financial access’ is difficult if the consumer lacks the money to buy healthy foods (generally more expensive, calorie for calorie, than less healthy, sugary, and fatty ‘junk foods’) or if the shopper cannot afford the bus fare to remote shops selling fresh foods and instead uses local fast food outlets. Other forms of financial access barriers may be inability to afford storage space for food, or for the very poor, living in temporary accommodation that does not offer good cooking facilities.
- Mental attitude or food knowledge of the consumer may prevent them accessing fresh vegetables. They may lack cooking knowledge or have the idea that eating a healthy diet isn’t important.
Why it matters: Access to healthy food is not a privilege, it’s a right. Good food needs to be available to everyone, regardless of income level. It’s a basic need that is completely out of reach for people living in urban food deserts.
What to look for: Your representatives contact info! This is more a case of “what you need to do” rather than “what you need to look for.” Contact your representative and urge them to support Obama’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative.