A grassroots organization takes a new approach to solving the problem of food deserts. They also hope to decrease health risks in some of the city’s underserved neighborhoods.
While some neighbors wait for a grocery store to move in, they no longer have to wait to gain access to many healthy foods. A new, mobile produce market will soon move through their neighborhoods — helping residents to eat green.
Food Desert Action’s donated CTA bus was once equipped to carry riders all across town. Now, its Mobile Produce Market carries fresh produce and makes its rounds through communities that lack access to healthy food.
And they have their own website
Food Deserts mean obesity and bad health
In 2009, the USDA mapped out the nation’s food deserts, tracts that are home to some 23 million Americans. About 10% of the 65,000 census tracts in the U.S. are considered food deserts. Data show that people living in these neighborhoods have limited access to a healthy diet, which can therefore lead to higher levels of obesity and other weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. So, can pop-up markets solve the food desert problem? Maybe.
Researchers have found that while people are more likely to buy and eat healthy, fresh food if it’s available, improving community health requires much more than simply installing a grocery store. In 2011, a 15-year study found that upping the number of grocery stores in a community didn’t change customers’ buying behavior. People may shop at new supermarkets, but that doesn’t mean they automatically buy healthier food.
“Just because you build it, doesn’t mean you will change people’s behavior,” says study author Barry Popkin, a professor of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Price, quality, accessibility, incentives, they matter too. Every community is different, but new efforts or supplementing existing infrastructure works if they’re accompanied with affordable prices, education, promotion or community collaboration.”
That is, introducing more places to buy food doesn’t translate into better choices unless people are educated about what those better choices actually are.