Posted on Mon, March 01, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Food Justice, News, Current Events, Policy, School Food, Take Action,
by intern Christine Binder
On February 9th, Michelle Obama unveiled Lets Move, an initiative with the ambitious goal of solving the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of the initiative, the First Lady and her team also launched an interactive Food Environment Atlas. It is an important source of food environment statistics and a great way to visualize the ability of different communities to access healthy food, but its also a lot of fun to play with and explore.
You can look at 90 different characteristics of the food environment by state, region, or county. Who pays the most for milk? In which states do people eat the most fruits and veggies, or drink the most soda? Where are the greatest numbers of grocery stores or farmers markets located? How much money do Americans spend on fast food every year? Where are obesity levels the highest?
As you look at all of the different maps, youll probably notice that there are a lot of places in this country where healthy foods are not readily available and even more places where unhealthy foods are. One of the four pillars of Lets Move is Accessible and Affordable Healthy Food. This is important because 23.5 million Americans, 6.5 million of which are children, live in what are called food deserts.
A food desert is a neighborhood with little or no access to fresh, healthy foods, due to a lack of grocery stores or farmers markets, often in combination with high food prices. Most food deserts are located in urban or rural areas. Even though they lack grocery stores, food deserts often contain plenty of fast food restaurants and convenience stores where cheap and unhealthy processed foods are sold. Its not hard to see that eating healthfully in a food desert is extremely challenging.
Progress has been made in eliminating food deserts. The Food Trust, a non-profit organization located in Philadelphia, has been working to improve the local food environment since 1992. In addition to bringing nutrition education to Philadelphia area schools, The Food Trust effectively increases the availability of fresh food by operating over 30 farmers markets, increasing access to healthy food in corner stores, and bringing supermarkets to areas without them. Their efforts are a model for similar initiatives all over the country, including upcoming initiatives by the Obama Administration.