You are here

Building a Retail Oasis in a Food Desert

July 28, 2011

Main Image

From top ten lists of American cities consuming the most fast food to extreme weight loss reality TV shows, the American obesity epidemic has led to widespread public scrutiny of our SAD (Standard American Diet) lifestyle regularly consisting of fattening, processed, and low-nutrient meals.

But did you know the majority of overweight and obese Americans live in areas designated by the Department of Agriculture as “food deserts”? These “deserts” are areas where at least 500 people or 33% of the population live more than 1 mile (10 miles in rural towns) from an affordable food store. Because of this, the residents of these areas end up turning to fast food joints or convenience stores for their daily meals because they cannot afford or do not have access to healthy food.

“Food deserts” should not and do not have to exist. First Lady Michelle Obama was recently quoted on the subject in the New York Times saying, “This isn’t some mysterious issue that we can’t address. We know the answer. It is right there.”

Mrs. Obama’s hard work on her campaign to reduce childhood obesity in America has paid off this week as several superstore giants have pledged to take part in her Partnership for a Healthier America and provide healthy food options for all Americans. As reported by the New York Times, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, SuperValu and several other stores pledged to open or expand a combined 1,500 stores throughout America in areas designated as food deserts.

Wal-Mart alone pledged to open or expand their food sections to include fresh produce and other healthy items that they do not normally stock within 275 stores nationwide by 2016. Along with providing much needed nutritious foods these new retail food oases will also create 40,000 new jobs.

What can we do to help? Educating others the importance of making smart nourishing choices and how to prepare healthy food is another important step in fighting obesity.  Consider volunteering in your community or your surrounding area with organizations like Food Day and become a part of the solution.