Digging into life's garden with Madison:
Food deserts are defined by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) as geographic areas in which residents have limited to no access to fresh fruit, vegetables, or other healthy foods. These areas are typically impoverished and lack farmer’s markets and grocery stores with fresh, affordable produce. About 23.5 million people in the US live in food deserts. (3) The largest three are located in New Orleans, Chicago, and Atlanta.(2)
Food deserts are primarily found in low income areas in which the majority of people do not own cars. This means people rely on public transportation to get to supermarkets which can require several long trips. A NY Times study shows that wealthy districts can have up to three times more supermarkets as poorer ones. The NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) found that small corner stores and larger grocery stores are statistically grouped together, meaning if a community had two corner stores and no large chain grocery store they would still be counted as having two retail food outlets despite its limited stock. (1)
There are growing health concerns for people who live in food deserts due to their dependence on the low prices of local stop and shop markets. These markets and small convenience stores offer primarily processed foods such as snacks, chips, cake, and sodas. Fresh fruits are usually sold individually with no price marked allowing store owners to change the cost based upon the customer. Buying food from these small stores also makes it difficult for many to find culturally appropriate foods that work around many dietary restrictions or allergies. For quick, easy meals these areas are filled with fast food chains, around a 2.5x higher exposure than those living in wealthy areas, only providing meals with processed meats high in fat, sugar, and salt. Between 1985 and 2005, the price of fruits and vegetables increased by 75% while the price of fatty foods dropped by over 26%. (1) Although eating cheaper food saves low income families money now, in the long term the lack of nutritious food leads to expensive health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
For more information follow the links below:
Digging into life's garden with Olivia:
Livelihood + Self Determination
Food sovereignty is an agricultural movement that encompasses challenges of ecology, society/culture, politics, and economy. The movement fights against the shifting values of the food system that is moving towards unnatural, cheap, and nonlocal food. The formal definition of Food Sovereignty is: the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
Food sovereignty goes beyond just having enough food for all, but also addresses the right people have to make decisions about their food system. This movement asserts that the current food system is broken and is operated by large corporations that control the entire production and sale of food. This causes many social problems, such as unfair pricing and distribution as well as ecological problems caused by large-scale production, mono-cropping, and inefficient water-use. The current food system takes the basic food needs of human and privatizes that food to be sold as a commodity, when it should be a common source of life for all.
This control from a few big businesses that produce huge and cheap crop yields drives out the smaller, local and ecologically friendly farmers, leaving them unable to earn a living. Without local control of the food system, many times both local farmers and consumers are left in poverty and hunger. As well as the people, the environmental health is being compromised by unsustainable farming practices.
Food as a community not a commodity
The movement's goal is to redistribute the control into the hands of the locals so that the community’s overall (nutritional, ecological, political, and economic) health can benefit and be tailored to the needs of the people in a given community. This idea eliminates exploitation of people and the land and gives power and justice to the people of the community.
Food Sovereignty is a global movement that is picking up followers from all over to fight against problems caused by the global food system. Below is a link from Grassroots International of a booklet of farmers and activists devoting their life to promoting food sovereignty and change.