Friday, July 31, 2009

Food Desert and Obesity

According to Schafft, Jensen, and Hinrich (2009) stated, the concept of the food desert, which is an area with limited access to full-service grocery stores, “has increasingly been used within social scientific and public health research to explore the dimensions of spatial inequality and community well-being.” (p.158). Various researches have been done respecting the relationship between food desert and the level of poverty. However, little researches have been conducted to examine the connection between food deserts and obesity. In article, Food Deserts and Overweight Schoolchildren: Evidence from Pennsylvania, Schafft, Jensen, and Hinrich (2009) have found a positive correlation between increased rates of child overweight and the percentage of the district population residing in a food desert in Pennsylvania. The access to retail food store has not only indicated the level of poverty of an area but also exposed the health issue in that area. People are getting overweight with their non-nutritional diet from fast food restaurants. In the same article, the authors have found that by introducing even just a food outlet store within the area could have positive impact on people’s diets, which would lead to a healthier diet. (2009)

Interestingly, upon another research in UK, Glanville (2001) emphasized that, “in Europe, the poor are not necessarily poor in food.” There are some people who live close to grocery store, yet live in a life style as they were living in a food desert. A reason Glanville pointed out was that healthy food is not the type some want to eat. Perhaps due to the convenience of the fast food restaurant, the uninformed nutrition status on fast food, or the ignorance to the difference between healthy and unhealthy food, some have chosen a life style as living in food desert, even though they are not in one. This has enlarged the problem of obesity worldwide.

by Peichen Su


Glanville, J. (2001, June 25). How to survive in a food desert. New Statesman, 130(4543), 26.

Schafft, K., Jensen, E., & Hinrichs, C. (2009, June). Food Deserts and Overweight Schoolchildren: Evidence from Pennsylvania. Rural Sociology, 74(2), 153.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


We all know that there are severe repercussions to living in a food desert regard to one’s health, but it seems that they are dismissed or forgotten because those living in a food deserts simply do not have the time to think or afford healthy eating. Not only are there severe health problems associated with eating a lot of fast food and convenience store foods that include obesity and heart problems there are huge benefits and definitely are incentives for eating healthy and hopefully convince those living in food deserts to act which will provide incentive for local markets, farmer’s markets and other places that provide fresh produce and provide the foods necessary for healthy eating.

A list of benefits to eating healthy are:
1. Longer life: Research shows that people that eat healthy and lay off the fast food are typically less prone to illness and disease resulting in a longer life.
2. Vitality: Healthier foods give off the vitamins, minerals, fiber and are typically lower in fat and cholesterol and thus give a person more energy for his or her day. And
3. Lose weight: Healthy foods are typically less fat and calories than those fast food and convenience stores buys and in taking less calories does equal a slimmer waist line.

This is just a short list and the benefits are definitely not limited to them and in fact the list could simply go on and on, but you all get the picture. Food deserts are a severe problem and can be remedied and would definitely help out the lives of loads of people.


-Maria David

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Interview with The Tennessean on communities in Nashville without grocery stores:

-Zephyr Anthony
A class project documenting food deserts in Charlottesville, with interviews:

part 1:

part 2:

-Zephyr Anthony
A motivating example:

Peak Moment 106: Patrick Marcus and other motivated citizens sprouted a community garden on city land slated to be a park in Ashland, Oregon. When the garden was threatened by plans to develop the park, they got active. Their research and advocacy led to official policy supporting community gardens in city parks. As the volunteer garden manager, Patrick affirms gardening isn't just for leisure -- it helps build community. It creates bonds among people from diverse social spheres -- through shared work, classes, potlucks and, most of all, shared passion. []

-Zephyr Anthony

This short documentary chronicles the regular practices and annual plant sale of a community garden in Austin, TX.

-Zephyr Anthony

Monday, July 27, 2009

Portland's Food Deserts

According to a research paper entitled "Finding Food Deserts: Methodology and Measurement of Food Access in Portland, Oregon" prepared for the National Poverty Center among other organizations, low income areas in Portland actually, in terms of distance, have more access to food. The higher poverty rates tend to live closer to areas where food is more accessible. In other words, where there is access to food, those living in poverty tend to live very close. This does, of course, leave others living in poverty on the fringes and so many living in poverty still cannot easily access food. But it also means that the majority of those living in poverty tend to have better access to food. In other, more average-income areas of Portland, the location of grocery stores tend to be much further away. While the stores are much further away, however, the people living in these areas have more access to the stores in terms of modes of transportation. Another subject discussed is the ability of the elderly to access food. According to this paper, 60 percent of those that are carless and living in the fringe of high population poverty areas are the elderly (16). Being carless and finding it physically difficult to travel, makes the elderly the most prone to food deserts. This study of Portland shows that food deserts are far more complicated than first imagined. Food deserts cannot be measured simply by relating poverty rates to distance to food. There are more factors involved such as age, mode of transportation, income, and location.

-Kyla Tom

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Food Deserts: Our Problem, Not Theirs

Eating a healthy balanced diet is challenging enough in our modern, fast-paced society. Thankfully, many people are fortunate enough to live in an area with access to convenient, healthy and affordable food. However, many are not so lucky. There are many parts of our country where finding inexpensive and affordable food can be a daunting task. “Food Deserts” exist when there is lack of access to healthy and affordable food. I live in downtown Portland, OR, a city where a healthy snack is always within arms reach. However, I am reminded of the problem of “food deserts” when I travel outside of city limits and am hard-pressed to find anything resembling healthy, unadulterated food. It may appear that there are plenty of food options, but in reality some of the stuff that is passed off as food these days is little more than high fructose corn syrup and lacks any nutritional value. In fact, not only does some food lack any nutritional value, but it may even be detrimental to our health, leading to things such as, diabetes and a myriad of other problems.
Food deserts are a problem that affects not just those living in the designated areas, but the community at large. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between poor access to food and poor health. A study titled, Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago, done by Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group, states that,” Communities that have no or distant grocery stores, or have an imbalance of healthy food options, will likely have premature death and chronic health conditions” (p. 6). In addition to the individual suffering, the community at large suffers, as resources are needed to care for the problems that are created. The problem of “food deserts” needs to be addressed for both the health of the individual and the health of society and the economy.

-Briana Surin

Works Cited:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Poor access to quality food is one of the key issues in the cause of food deserts. A study conducted by Canadian researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada found that in 1961 over 75% of urban residents had access to a grocery store, whereas only 20% do today—and the population has nearly doubled in the last 50 years.

Why is this? Because the big grocery stores follow the population with the most money, currently located in the suburbs; the small markets were driven out by the large grocers. What remains in most food deserts are convenience stores and fast food restaurants; both are more expensive than the big grocers prices, and residents in food deserts end up paying nearly double of what large urban grocery stores charge for comparable items. Contrary to popular belief, not all food desert residents are poverty stricken, but they may not have a car, may be disabled, or simply do not have the time to travel miles away to purchase wholesome food. Studies have shown that when quality food is available, residents in urban food deserts will purchase it, but with the abundance and accessibility of convenience/fast foods, this is what is mostly consumed, obviously because what is offered in their neighborhood is their only choice. Many are not underfed, but they are malnourished. This of course leads to poor nutrition and health issues.

Solutions may include incentives for small markets to open in food desert areas, farmer’s markets, community gardens and entrepreneurs to operate food carts in food deserts.

-Marisha Wadsworth

Work Cited:
Urban food deserts in major cities | Emerging Technology Trends | (n.d.). . Retrieved July 20, 2009, from

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Food Tokens as Incentives to Local Residents

In the July 13th edition of the Portland Observer there was an article about the new Kings Farmers Market titled "Food Tokens Boost Buying Power. The Kings Farmers Market is located at Northeast Seventh Avenue and Wygant Street and is every Sunday through September 27th.

The Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, in conjunction with the Portland Farmers Market, has established an incentive program to benefit low income residents who live in northeast and north Portland. They wanted to find a way to allow those in need to have access to the fresh fruits and vegetables available at the Kings Farmers Market. 

The program is called the Foodshare Fund Northeast incentive program and, according to the article, will benefit the residents of north and northeast Portland who are already receiving assistance from the food stamp program. They will be provided tokens that are paid for by donations from residents and businesses. When they get to the farmers market the Foodshare Fund Northeast will supplement the food stamps with a dollar-for-dollar match. The example the article gives is if an Oregon Trail card user purchases $10 they would receive an additional $5 in tokens to spend on food. The tokens are only to be used for fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, fish, poultry and food producing plants.

One of the big supporters in this effort is the Alberta Co-op Grocery. They have decided to match the donations and turn those donations into the foundation for the fund according to the Co-op marketing manager Jocelyn Furbush. 

Anyone from any community is able to contribute financially or by volunteering. 

Many other farmers markets have been inspired by this effort and have jumped on board with similar programs. Here in Portland, the Lents International Farmers market has recently joined the effort.

To learn more go to or to

~Leslie Kobyluck

Community Gardens In the Northwest

Whether a rent-a-plot garden or a community garden, a demonstration garden or one grown by volunteers to help people in need, vegetable gardens are becoming more than just a great source of food. Early on, no one took time to think that while gardens provide food for the stomach, they also provide food for the soul. Gardens can be healing. They add beauty to neighborhoods and provide camaraderie and a sense of community (Barrow). Being able to start your own garden gives you a sense of ownership and pride, knowing that what you have created is going to be worth it. Packets of seed usually cost less than a few dollars and will provide more than enough plants for the season. One of the other benefits of garden fresh food is that it tastes better, you can always tell when you eat a organically grown fresh fruit bursts of flavor in you mouth especially when you compare it to the packaged and hormone injected, ginormous fruits now a days. Now it's much easier to get a hand on these community grown gardens through sources that you find through friends, websites, newspapers, television and so on. Here is a site where you can actually find a garden closest to you. The only thing you have to do is make the effort and change that you need in your life. By changing the ways you eat to more organic and healthy foods you are actually benefiting not only yourself but the environment as well. The you pick farm website is listed below for anyone who is interesting in locating a farm nearest to your home here in the Northwest. Ideas such as these are great ways in trying tot better our food desert issues we have going on. With that, you are benefiting so much to your health and considering this is more important than anything also, It significantly lowers the rate of chronic diseases in your community. If Oregon were to become more green I can only imagine how people would be living happier and most importantly, healthier lives today. We need to bring our pride of diversity that we share and come together to make Oregon a more beautiful place to live in.

You Pick Farm website:

Abdelrahman Odeh

Monday, July 20, 2009

Roof Top Gardens/Food Deserts Researched by will dillon

There has been an increase in the interest of roof top gardens. These gardens can help with the alleviation of Food Deserts. Listed below are several reasons for individuals and businesses to think about for installation of rooftop gardens any type of roof can work which will allow people to grow food that is accessible and nutritious.

Increase access to private outdoor green space-at home or at work-within the urban environment
Support urban food production
Promote individual, community, and cultural diversity
Improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions
Delay stormwater runoff
Increase habitat for birds
Insulate buildings
Increase the value of buildings for owners and tenants alike
Create job opportunities in the field of research, design, construction, Iandscaping/gardening, health, and food production
Reference: Aimee Blyth and Leslie Menagh Canadian Organic Growers Magazine

Proposed Food Desert Solution

Can online grocery services provided by companies like Amazon and Safeway help people living in food deserts get access to healthy foods? For those with internet access, yes, this is a possibility. But many people living in food deserts do not have access to the internet, let alone own a computer. The following article addresses the food desert issue and proposes that good corporate citizenship might help.

Deliver Us From Food Deserts

-Sightline Daily: Northwest News that Matters (03/15/2009)

" 'Food deserts' are places in urban areas where people have limited access to healthy, fresh, and reasonably-priced food. The only options are hard-bitten markets where you can find cigarettes, cheap beer, and packaged snack foods, but nothing like apples, pasta, or milk. In Portland and Seattle, food deserts tend to be in low-income neighborhoods or suburbs where many residents rely on transit service or foot-power. (Think parts of northeast Portland or Seattle's South Park, for example.)"

{post by: Andy Nichols}

health and food deserts

Food deserts are a significant problem on health. While it may make sense that because people who live in food deserts lack access to grocery stores, they should be thin and lacking food. This is untrue. In food deserts, the rates of obesity rise. In a report on the health of those living in food deserts in Chicago, it is noted that food deserts increase the lack of proper food balance in the diet. Proper balance can lead to many health issues such as hypertension. It also leads to an increase in weight. Increase in weight can lead to diabetes and a poor diet can lead to premature death. Why does this happen in food deserts?
Because there are far more conveniently located fast food restaurants than there are grocery stores, those in food deserts tend to eat far more fast food than they should. Those who live in food deserts live off of food that is poor in nutrition simply because they cannot access food that would be nutritious for them. According to "the impact of food deserts on the public health of chicago," about half of all American meals are eaten outside of the home and most of these meals are fast food (Impact, 7). This report goes on to state that " the nearest grocery store is roughly twice as distant as the nearest fast food restaurant." (Impact, 6) Fast food restaurants are very convenient and, when one lives in an area where a grocery store is difficult to access, the fast food restaurant is an appealing alternative. But this appealing alternative causes major health issues and is why those that live in food deserts have a greater risk of dying prematurely.

Kyla Tom

"The Impact of Food Deserts on the Public Health of Chicago."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food Deserts and the EFNEP Program - Amanda Oliszewski

A food desert is an urban area of a city that has a very low income that the residents have to go to extrodinary lengths to buy fresh groceries. These residents are not capable of being able to obtain nutritents in their diet to be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, due to the options in the area being so poor. These neighbors are typically litered with junk food chains, that can offer the cheap way to fill the belly, but not the sustainance that is required for proper health. Many of these residents of the food deserts do not understand the need for a change in the lifestyle.

There is currently a cause in the Ohio area that is working to help with low income families and helping them to buy healthy, inexpensive food options. They work to educate on nutrition and look to bring positive changes into the lives of these people. They want people to know that just because food is healthy, that it isn't expensive and tastes bad, but something that can make them live a longer healthier lifestyle.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Portland's low-income neighborhoods are city's 'food deserts'

Here is a link to an article that I found through the Oregonian's archive from November 2008:

I found this article particularly interesing because it hit close to home. Portland is suppose to be such a green city and I personally have always had access to grocery stores and assumed that everyone in Portland and its surrounding areas did as well. We live in Portland, not a small southern OR town.

--posted by Maria David

Fresh Food for Urban Deserts

Here is an article I found on the New York Times website. It's an editorial from this past March.

Michelle Obama’s recent pitch for fresh vegetables and her avowed interest in community gardens have given new life to those who are trying to replace cheap, fast foods with healthier fare. She could go one step further and greatly improve the health of the urban poor by adding her powerful voice to local efforts aimed at bringing fresh groceries into poorer neighborhoods.

There are communities across America where it’s almost impossible to find a fresh apple or an unfried potato. These neighborhoods are known as “food deserts.” Full-service grocery stores are often many blocks away and hard to reach, and what’s left are mostly fast-food outlets or chain drug stores selling products that, while cheap today, can extract huge health costs in obesity and diabetes later on.

Some cities are trying to bring back the corner grocery in these underserved areas. In Pennsylvania, the Fresh Food Financing Initiative has been particularly successful and has begun encouraging similar programs throughout the country.

In New York City, where perhaps 750,000 people inhabit food deserts, officials are just beginning to find ways to help. The city has expanded its licenses for carts selling fruits and vegetables, provided $2 bonuses for people using food stamps at greenmarkets and encouraged bodegas to offer healthier items like low-fat milk.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, among others, are looking at promising ideas like zoning and tax incentives for grocers willing to take a chance on poorer neighborhoods. The Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, points out that the city offers tax abatements “if you sell Big Macs but not if you just sell the lettuce and tomato.”

The urban poor face many difficulties, but too much fast food and not enough fresh produce only add to their troubles. Bringing fruit and peas and farm eggs to the cities’ food deserts sounds like the right campaign for a strong first lady trying to make a healthy difference.

here is the direct link:

--posted by Maria David

Bringing the Farm to You by Kimberly Shibles

The issues surrounding food deserts and how to solve them can quickly add up to an overwhelming assignment. There are many fences that separate residents in food deserts from accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe we don't have to tackle the entire concern in one swoop, but we could start small.

With local farmers often struggling to sell their products competitively against big corporations who offer deals to large grocers, perhaps we can combat the market by working together. Residents in food deserts need fresh produce and local farmers have an abundance to offer.

In Cleveland, a company called City Fresh is doing what communities everywhere can partake in. City Fresh is a non-profit company that seeks to close the gap between those who need fresh produce and those who have fresh produce to offer. Through their line-up of volunteers, they have established neighborhood food centers called Fresh Stops. At these food centers, local patrons can feast their eyes on the freshest produce that Cleveland has to offer because the fruits and vegetables come directly from local farmers. City Fresh sponsors "community supported agriculture" by offering farmers upfront payment by groups of neighbors for produce at the beginning of the season and in exchange, the farmers provide fresh fruits and veggies each week to the community in "share bags" containing a mix of what's fresh that week.

There are many community supported agriculture programs across the country. To find one in your area, visit let the fresh fun begin!

City Fresh. (2009). Retrieved on July 16, 2009 from

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can America’s Urban Food Deserts Bloom?

In the introduction to “Can American’s Urban Food Deserts Bloom” Gray writes “it’s also raising an intriguing proposition: Can an inner-city supermarket profitably specialize in fresh produce and meats and, ultimately, be a model solution to urban American’s health crisis?” The author begins the article to define “Food Deserts” term by giving a real example located on Chicago’s South Side. Basically, he discusses an important issue for those whom suffer of seeking for healthier food such as fruits and vegetables because they live far away form the cities. Therefore, these people feed themselves from the fast food which is obviously considered unhealthy food and leads to fat disease. The author shows us how this disease has been increased among the population in the U.S. According to the article, the writer says “Experts have declared roughly half of Detroit (pop. 916,000) a food desert and estimate that nearly 633,000 of Chicago’s 3 million residents live in neighborhoods either lacking or far away from conventional supermarkets like Jewel, Pathmark, and Winn-Dixie. The paucity of affordable, healthy food options in urban communities is ironic in a country with an abundance of food.”

Then, the writer gives an example of the food deserts stores which is own by Karriem Beyah. The store is located in Chicago’s South Side and called “Farmers Best Market”. Karriem started his business in the black neighborhood where he lives, but unfortunately he realized that people, who live in the neighborhood, do not appreciate the value of healthy food. Karriem says “I’d have to have a higher class of African Americans, that recognize the value of fruits and vegetables.” Then, Karriem decided to open his store in another neighborhood after he felt frustrated of the black neighborhood. He found that Latinos neighborhood is better because they want to purchase fresh fruits and vegetable and in the same time they have a big numbers of folks. The store provides healthy food for the neighborhood, and the owner tries to achieve neighborhood’s needs of a great food. On the other hand, the store does not make that much profit for its owner. Karriem attempts to reach people by advertising through the black radio stations to obtain their attentions and educate them about the healthy food. He says “We are trying to teach the children how to eat properly”. He believes that his idea will be successful in the future.

Watch this video for Urban Deserts: Fresh-Food-Free Zones at Farmers Best Market
Find this article at:,8599,1900947,00.html

By Khalid Alnassar

Could the Answer to Food Deserts Be in Hong Kong?- Bray-Sweet

One may think that large cities with high prices are most likely to develop food deserts. Susanne Freidberg’s research has proven this may not be the case. Freidberg is an associate professor of geography at Dartmouth and has also written a book titled Fresh: A Perishable History. She wrote a series of blogs as a guest poster for the New York Times' online section called "Freakonomics."

Freidberg visited Hong Kong, an obviously crowded, large city. She points out that “thirty thousand people live in each square kilometer versus the 10,238 per square kilometer in New York…, with most of them living in very small apartments.” Even so, the answer seems to lie in the wet markets of the city. These markets provide fresh, affordable food and are within walking distance for most residents of Hong Kong. Perhaps part of the answer to solving food deserts could be discovered here.

Please read more about Freidberg’s excellent research and thoughts in her article: Freidberg’s Article

Citation: Freidberg, Susanne. "Food Deserts: A Guest Post." Freakonomics. Mar. 2009. New York Times. 14 July 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009


CarrotMob is an organization that Brent Schuklin invented," the focus is on positive cooperation"(Time Magazine, June 8th, 2009).
Instead of boycotting stores that use unfreindly environmental energy, he encourages people to shop at their local convient stores and spend money, buy any product and increase the cash flow to the store. The increase in the cash flow is to encourage the store operater to invest in environmental freindly energy, such as lighting, wind power or solar panels.
I think that this idea could be used for Food Deserts.
The Ecopolproject could encourage people to shop their local convience store and ask them to supply healthy food and purchase it, which can encourage the store operator to invest in the foods that the customers need.
I think this would encourage store operators to notice a customer base that would support them locally.It would also help the local community release itself from the burdens of acquiring food from areas that are difficult to get too. by will dillon

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Fresh and Easy" grocery stores have a plan to help

Tesco, a british grocery store chain, has recently traveled to the United States to begin opening grocery stores in needed areas such as food desert areas.

The company plans to achieve an optimistic goal of opening 100 "Fresh and Easy" grocery stores in the United States in the next five years and plans to spend $400 million a year to achieve that goal.

The best part about Tesco is that they recognize and are very supportive of food deserts and plan to open many of their stores in inner-city neighborhoods having the poorest access to food markets. They have concentrated on California, Arizona and Nevada but plan to expand to other cities in the future including Washington and Oregon.

Tesco has put together a blog,, as well as allowing consumers to follow them on Twitter at 

In an article in this blog titled "A long haul just to get their daily bread", writer Jennifer Langston writes about some of the areas that are heavily concentrated with food deserts naming Seattle as one of them. She brings up some good points as to how we may be able to incorporate solutions in our own city. For example, she writes about Mayor Bloomberg's Green Cart initiative in New York City. This initiative gives permits to about 1,000 fruit and vegetable cart vendors to set up their carts in underserved neighborhoods of the five boroughs. This allows closer and easier access to healthy fruits and vegetables within walking distance to many low income areas of New York City.

Tesco's "Fresh and Easy" strategy focuses on small-format grocery stores in underserved areas. They  combine basic grocery items utilizing their private label but, due to customer demand, have recently adding many national brands to compliment their own label. Having the majority of food items with their own private brand is one of the reasons their prices are lower.

~Leslie Kobyluck

Friday, July 10, 2009

Possible Solutions to Food Desert

By Peichen Su

Is there any possible ways to change the condition of food desert? Some people are simply too poor or too sick to get to stores that are far away. Or they just don’t have the time for it. What can be done to the problem as it is getting worse?

Upon researching, I have found two ways that may answer the problem.

First, the city may introduce farmer’s market to the community. Having farmers come to the center of the city with their fresh produce! In Portland area, people are generally familiar with Saturday Market. They bring in fresh flowers, vegetables, fruit, and live music. Many have benefited from the fresh produces. According to Smith (2009), it has been effectively implemented in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side. Cities may negotiate with the farmers for a affordable price for the communities.

Second option is fresh produce delivering service. Bauman (2008) pointed out that the health department in New York has successfully developed a fresh produce delivery business with Veggie Mobile. People in Albany have responded positively and expressed the greater saving through the delivery problem.

Ultimately, both options would encourage the need for a market of fresh produces. Eventually, large grocery stores would see the market for building a store in the area and the food desert problem may be solve permanently. That is the goal to increase the awareness of food desert and lead to the conclusion of the need of such stores.

Smith, P. (2009, June 16). A Solution for Chicago’s Food Deserts. Retrieved July 10, 2009 from Chicagotalks Web site:

Bauman, V. (2008, June 7). Families benefit from creative solutions to 'food deserts'. Retrieved July 10, 2009 from Web site:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Portland-area Food Deserts (Rose)

The Regional Equity Atlas is a local project by the Coalition for a Livable Future. In the health and design chapter of the Regional Equity Atlas, the region's accessibility to affordable and healthy foods is discussed. As this map shows, there are a variety of Portland-area neighborhoods with below average access to groceries and natural food stores. In one section of the chapter, farmers markets are discussed as a possible option for residents in food deserts. While Portland is rightfully proud to be a farmers market-friendly city - many Portland-area farmers markets even accept Oregon Trail food stamps - unfortunately there are a few barriers that prevent accessible and affordable farmers markets from being a viable solution for many of the Portlanders living in food deserts. 

For instance, the Regional Equity Atlas uses the Wilkes neighborhood in North Portland as an example of a local food desert. Wilkes residents live near the Parkrose Farmers Market at NE 112nd and Shaver and could conceivably purchase their groceries there on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October. However, the time limitations could create a barrier for shoppers, and the Parkrose Farmers Market does not accept the Oregon Trail card. Oftentimes shoppers need to pick up a wide variety of goods at once, and if you are strapped for time and money, you will likely choose a "one-stop shopping center." It can also seem impractical to do much shopping at a farmers market if you like to do the bulk of your shopping once a month. A food security study focusing on the North and Northeast neighborhoods found that price and transportation were the barriers to purchasing food, and 3 out of 10 respondents leave their neighborhoods to shop at wholesale supermarkets like Winco. 

In a study conducted by the Portland/Multnomah Food Policy Council, a majority of those surveyed in the Lents neighborhood said they were interested in eating healthier foods. In fact, about half of respondents said they would even grow their own food if they had the opportunity to do so. This significant number of potential at-home gardeners tells us that while farmers markets are invaluable sources for healthy food in Portland, maybe providing resources and opportunities for starting urban gardens would be helpful for our local food deserts.

(photo via

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Changing Minds on Food Desert

The British government’s social and health policy literature of the 1990s used the term ‘food deserts’ to describe areas of relative exclusion where people experience physical and economic barriers to accessing healthy food” (Reisig and Hobbiss, 2000, p. 138).

Fresh fruit and vegetables constitute a healthy diet. Residents living in food deserts without any access to healthy grocery stores often end up eating at fast food chains or buying at convenience stores that lack fruit and vegetables. These alternative food options lack in nutritional value that is essential for health living. The combination of a lack of access to healthy food stores and close proximity of fast food joints can result in poor health.

Using Howard Gardiners 7 levers of cognition (Howard Gardiner Changing Minds pg 15) , I hope to highlight and change minds to solve the "Food Desert" Problem

Food Desert and an unhealthy diet often result in a health related issues like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease which in turn would result in a lack of work efficiency, productivity and mental health of the individual. This in turn has a ripple effect financially on the community and its residents with rising health care costs, treatment, medications and also on government heath agencies setting up programs to support these individuals. The costs to the community could end up in the millions of dollars.

According to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “obesity can increase the risk of (adult onset) type 2 diabetes by as much as 34 fold, and diabetes is a major risk factor for amputations, blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease.” Obesity alone is estimated to cost the United States health care system $100 billion per year (Koplan and Fleming, 2000).

More than one-quarter (28.5 percent) of the Portland area poor population live in these low-poverty block groups where mean food access is low; similarly 31.4 percent of the population in households without an automobile live in such areas, as do 60 percent of the elderly.

According to a study done by Mari Gallagher, in Chicago it was found that more than a half million Chicagoans live in food deserts (areas with no or distant grocery stores) and roughly 400,000 Chicagoans live in areas with an imbalance of food choices (nearby access to fast food restaurants but no or distant grocery stores). The same study found that, as communities become more out-of-balance in terms of food choices, residents are more likely to die prematurely and at greater rates from diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as suffer from obesity and hypertension.

Further, the study found that the people of Detroit were physically suffering because of their lack of access to healthy, fresh food. The study concluded that "as a group, residents in food deserts are statistically more likely to suffer or die prematurely from diet-related disease than residents who live in areas with healthy food options

Click these links to learn more

Representational Redescriptions:

Picture courtsey of

More than one-quarter (28.5 percent) of the Portland area poor population live in these low-poverty block groups where mean food access is low; similarly 31.4 percent of the population in households without an automobile live in such areas, as do 60 percent of the elderly.

Resource and Rewards:
Wal-Mart is scouting 12 properties in Chicago's "food desert" neighborhoods for new stores that sell groceries so there is economic benefit for enterprising enterpreueners looking to serve the food deser neighborhoods.
Click to read more:,CST-FIN-walmart07.article

Real World Events:
The global recession has made Food Desert a growing phenomenon. Ignoring this phenomenon has serious consequences that will minimally affect the economy, health, progress of this country and very individual alike.

an article published in the New York Times:
White House will focus on healthy living and will be a significant item on Mrs. Obama’s agenda, which already includes supporting working families and military spouses. As the nation battles an obesity epidemic and a hard-to-break taste for oversweetened and oversalted dishes, her message is clear: Fresh, nutritious foods are not delicacies to be savored by the wealthy, but critical components of the diets of ordinary and struggling families.

Work Cited:

French, Jessica. "Food Deserts: How a Community Group in Detroit is Changing Ideas About Food" <>

Parker, Paige. "Portlands low income neighborhoods are city's' food desert." Oregon Live 15th Nov 2008 < >

Spark, Andrea., Bania, Neil., and Leete, Laura "Poverty Rate and Finding Food Deserts: Methodology and Measurement of Food Access in Portland, OR" <>

Wallace, Branders., M, PH., and Halfmann, Stephanie "Reaching out to Food Deserts and Promoting Healthy Michigan Congregation" <>

Gallagher, Mari. "Impact of Food Desert on Public Health – Chicago"

Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food—Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress

"This report fills a request for a study of food deserts—areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food—from the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The report summarizes findings of a national-level assessment of the extent and characteristics of food deserts, analysis of the consequences of food deserts, lessons learned from related Federal programs, and a discussion of policy options for alleviating the effects of food deserts. Overall, findings show that a small percentage of consumers are constrained in their ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation."

This document is very dense with information about food deserts and their effects on people and communities as a whole. It addresses questions regarding whether individuals or communities have limited access to food. The report is organized into the following chapters:

  • The Extent of Limited Food Access in the U.S.
  • The Interaction of Neighborhood and Household Characteristics in Explaining Areas With Limited Access
  • Food Access and Its Relationship to Food Choice
  • The Economics of Supermarket and Grocery Store Location
  • Community Food Projects
  • Policy Options
  • Future Research Needs

Friday, July 3, 2009

Food Deserts; week 2; Abdelrahman Odeh

"Food deserts" are places in urban areas where people have limited access to healthy, fresh, and reasonably-priced food. The only options are hard-bitten markets where you can find cigarettes, cheap beer, and packaged snack foods, but nothing like apples, pasta, or milk. In Portland and Seattle, food deserts tend to be in low-income neighborhoods or suburbs where many residents rely on transit service or foot-power. (Think parts of Northeast Portland for example.)

Without ready access to decent grocery stores, residents end up over-spending, or buying food with limited nutritional value, or both" (Place, 2009). Fresh fruits and vegetables (so important for a healthy diet) are in short supply, if they exist at all. And you can forget about local and organic food. So food deserts can result in poor health, tight budgets for those who can least afford it, or long cumbersome bus trips to other neighborhoods. Worse, the problem of grocery access is most severe for the elderly, single parents, and the disabled. It's not just an urban land use issue: it's a problem with profound social justice implications. According to Health And Fitness News By Paige Parker, she states that nationally, food deserts originated with the urban flight of the 1960s and 1970s and locally here in Oregon some time in early 1980s "convenience stores replaced supermarkets, high-calorie processed food replaced fresh, and a generation of poor people and minorities gained weight and developed chronic diseases" (Parker, 2008).

Of course, the best long-term solution to food deserts may be to turn them green. We should be promoting compact walkable communities that support local businesses and grocers and especially so in low-income areas. Having ready access to affordable healthy food shouldn't be a luxury of the upper classes, it should be a basic building block of all city neighborhoods (Place, 2009). Being able to solve this problem starts by looking at the basics of the source, and looking forward and into what could help people with transportation and disability issues.If we start with the assumption that all people need to have access to fresh foods, it’s clear that food deserts are a huge issue. They contribute to the combination of malnutrition and obesity that is a national public health issue. Fortunately, there are many strategies that cities and community members are taking to make fresh food accessible in inner cities such as farmers markets, community gardens, food Co-ops, community supported agriculture, and grocers online.

After reading "Changing Minds" by Howard Gardner, I realized that his thoughts of the seven steps that must be taken in order to bring this problem to the public and to "open their minds" must be dealt with rationalization and reasoning. Doing our research is a must so that the message is heard around us and should be represented in a way that shows that we know our resources being related to current world events and consider the downsides of tackling the issue of Food Deserts. So according to Gardner, we must really do our research well, then approach our issue with the most that we can using logic that people pose. After reading through chapter 2 this week I have really been understanding more of what Gardner is saying, what I personally found useful and will be looking into it more is the cognitive approach. Understanding the concepts, theories, stories and skills and the formats in which our mind/brain does that thinking. The cognitive approaches advantage is "in-house" with psychology (pg 42). I think using his methods will help to create our own approach to better our community in any ways possible.

---Abdelrahman Odeh---

Thursday, July 2, 2009

WIC and Food Deserts by Bray-Sweet

Food deserts are basically areas in which the residents have limited or no access to fresh, healthy foods vital to maintaining a healthy diet. Some of those at the biggest risk for health-related issues are infants and children. Being deprived of a diet with the proper nutrition as a developing child can cause serious health problems. Additionally, a breast-feeding mother needs to be consuming a nutritious diet to ensure her baby’s health.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a program that seeks to aid “low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk” (USDA website). The program offers nutritious foods, information on healthy eating, as well as health care referrals. WIC recognizes the dangers of food deserts to low income women, infants, and children and has worked hard to spread the program to all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and several others.

The WIC program offers access to healthful foods including fresh milk, eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables, and many others. There is also a supplemental program called the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program which allows WIC members to purchase fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. One of WIC’s major goals is to “increase the access to fruits and vegetables and whole grains for children and women” (USDA website). Their work to assist with the issue of food deserts has been extremely beneficial, but the fight isn’t nearly over.

Unfortunately, as Andrea Sparks points out in her thesis, the lack of supermarket access in food deserts affects government assistance programs like WIC. When people living in food deserts are forced to shop at the closer, more expensive stores, the public assistance money doesn’t go as far in helping the problem as it would at a more moderately priced supermarket.

-Ariana Bray-Sweet

Food and Nutrition Service. 2009. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1 July 2009

Sparks, Andrea. "Measuring Food Deserts." June 2008. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1 July 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Food Deserts, Casued by Whom?

It's a known fact that those fast food or fringe food are bad for us; however, many people still buy from them. Look at McDonald. It is even a worldwide food chain organization. Who doesn't know about that big golden arch. To compete with McDonald, different type of fast food restaurants open their store right by them. Before we know it, it's a whole street of fast food restaurant.

We are living in food deserts today.

Generally, food desert appeals where the low-income urban neighborhoods are and where supermarkets are rare, understocked and overpriced. As other articles have pointed out, the main reason contributed to that fashion is because of people's inability of spending excessive money, time of travlling, no vehicle for going to grocery, and inability of getting around (elderlies and disabled people). However, to take a step further, perhaps we have allowed the situation to happen? People may mentally realize they need healthy food but actually emotionally choose junk food simply because it taste good. "I mean... It's 'healthy food'", people may think and don't want to be bothered with it.

It's interesting to think about.

------ By Peichen Su

What is a 'Food Desert'? By Kimberly Shibles

A food desert can be defined as an area where residents have little or no access to nearby healthy food choices. Inner-city areas are hit the hardest by the lack of grocery stores that are stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and dairy, and whole grains. According to Cassandra Leveille in her May 2009 article entitled Living in a Food Desert, this phenomenon began to appear in the US during the 1960's and 70's and coincided with "white flight" where affluent whites left the city in favor of suburban areas. Supermarkets followed suit leaving low-income, inner-city residents with no choice but to purchase over processed, packaged foods (chips, candy, and soda) at convenience stores and high-fat fast food (burgers, fries, and you guessed it, soda) in order to survive (Leveille, 2009).

Paige Parker of The Oregonian notes that "nationally, the typical low-income neighborhood has 30 percent fewer supermarkets than higher-income neighborhoods" (Parker, 2008). This makes getting to a grocery store for quality food next to impossible for people in low-income neighborhoods. The USDA has just released a report on food deserts in America and has concluded that 2.3 million people in the US live more than a mile away from a grocery store and do not have access to a vehicle. Furthermore, 11.3 million low-income people who reside in low-income neighborhoods live more than a mile from a grocery store (USDA, 2009). With a vast number of US residents falling short of access to healthy food, it isn't hard to grasp the negative health effects on this population.

As a result of consuming too many unhealthy food choices, inner-city patrons are more susceptible to severe health problems including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Because of the adverse health effects of eating high-fat, over processed foods, there is a higher rate of premature death among the same residents.

Photo Copyright 2009 Kimberly Shibles. All rights reserved.

Leveille, C. (2009). Living in a Food Desert. Retrieved on July 1, 2009 from:

Parker, P. (2008).
Portland's low-income neighborhoods are city's 'food deserts'. Retrieved on July 1, 2009 from:

USDA. (2009). Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food—Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress. Retrieved on July 1, 2009 from: