The term “food desert” usually is associated with low income, urban areas where access to food is limited, meaning no supermarkets within a ten mile radius. Many believe that the implementation of grocery stores in those areas is the most important step towards flowering the deserts and, as a result, gaining ground on the obesity epidemic sweeping America. But new research suggests that better access to grocery stores doesn’t improve people’s diet.
According to the LA Times, the study, which tracked thousands of people in several large cities for 15 years, found that people didn’t eat more fruits and vegetables when they had supermarkets available in their neighborhoods.
Instead, income–and proximity to fast food restaurants–were the strongest factors in food choice.
These finding are sure to make people feel like there is now no hope for the nation’s poor in their fight against obesity, How are they going to realistically lift themselves out of the traps of cheap, industrialized food pushers?
On the contrary, this study seems to prove that their will not be a corporate answer to food-related issues and diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or cancer.
The results, published Monday in The Archives of Internal Medicine, demonstrate that the pleas from activist in poor neighborhoods are more desperate than ever. They seem willing to accept any answer even if that solution actually floods the neighborhoods with more subsidized corn, soy, wheat, and factory-farmed meat.
The study looked at more than 5,000 African American and Caucasian men and women Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland between 1985 and 2001. The researchers assessed participants’ diets over the years and tracked how far they lived from supermarkets and fast-food restaurants. The study did not measure their weight or body mass index.
Living near fast-food restaurants was the best indicator of poor diet, as the cheap food allowed people to feed their families on a budget. Remarkably, easy access to supermarkets didn’t translate into people buying fresh produce, leaner meats, and/or low-fat processed foods like yogurt or whole grain bread.
In a story by Shane Roberts on Clutch Magazine, he asked:
How are we to convince young African-Americans to care about the environment when their lives, in a city, are completely dependent upon corporate entities to provide for their basic needs.
That question has now been answered by this report. No longer are large corporate takeovers, in the form of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, of urban areas the answer to issues related to food and diet. Education, a living wage, and small community farms and co-ops are clearly the first steps towards fighting the obesity epidemic.
Stories about the moratorium on fast-food restaurants in South L.A. makes sense now even though the bill’s lead sponsor, Jan Perry, solution was more super markets in the most black and Hispanic area.
J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington, D.C-based organization funded by the restaurant industry, said that such measures have an “anti-corporate whiff” and that this study shows that government meddling is not the answer.
“Trying to change the market doesn’t necessarily work and at the same time undermines personal responsibility,” he said.
But the market is proving over and over that it’s not giving people a fair choice. One cannot expect to a person, who is cash-strapped, to choose a head of fresh, non-GMO vegetable for $4 when you can buy two boxes of cereal for the same price, feeding a family for over a week opposed to a nights worth of vegetables.
It’s a tough situation, but there is no doubt larger discussion must be had before this nation becomes any more unhealthier.