Campus Sustainability Office

Food Deserts

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Food deserts are areas where residents have limited or no access to reliable supplies of fresh and healthy food in grocery stores and food markets. In cities, food deserts generally are associated with low income neighborhoods. In rural areas they are generally found where residents have limited or no access to automobiles and/or public transportation. Studies link food deserts with poorer overall health and reliance on fast food and/or the types of highly processed snack foods usually found at convenience stores. This lack of access mostly a question of social justice, especially poverty. 

Farmers markets are a good start at alleviating food deserts, but they tend to favor middle-class and upper middle-class income ranges (some are beginning to accept EBT cards). Better solutions may be to provide free or income-based access to land (in the food deserts), so that poorer income classes may be able to cultivate their own food. This approach could include providing workshops on how to sow, grow, compost, water, feed, harvest, and store crops. Furthermore, providing a program or network that helps low-income peoples create co-ops, seed networks, and other communal actions builds strength through numbers, providing much needed empowerment to the disadvantaged.

 

(Mari Gallagher: Food deserts, TED Talk. She starts talking about food deserts & their impact at ~4:40.)

Growing Oshkosh is a local, community-based, non-profit organization here in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, headed by UW-Oshkosh graduate Dani Stolley, and a great example of one way to alleviate the social injustice of food deserts. Their stated goals are "to help alleviate local civic, social and environmental challenges simultaneously by revitalizing, repurposing and beautifying vacant or unused urban property into inclusive, awe-inspiring, job-creating places of pride, as well as educational living learning labs for youth, adults and seniors." Stay up to date with what they are doing in our community by following them on Facebook or Twitter.

(The Food Desert Project in Baltimore, Maryland)

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