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"


  1. The copyrighted image that you are using without requesting or receiving permission at the top of this document is from "Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago, authored by Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group." We have done work on Detroit which you also reference. You quote extensively word for word from our reports without quotations or citations. In fact, you didn't mention us once. This is an important topic to cover, and we thank you for your interest in the Food Balance Effect body of work which which we developed and other parts of our work. However, we suggest that you treat the work of others more appropiately. You can find more at

  2. Thank you for removing the copyrighted image and for making some changes to your text (if you had requested permission and provided appropriate credit, we would not only have allowed it but welcome it.)

    A few more comments. These paragraphs in your blog are almost word for word from our reports and should be in quotations with the source listed:

    "Resident of food deserts -- large geographic areas with no or distant grocery stores -- face nutritional challenges evident in diet-related community health outcomes. Those outcomes worsen when the food desert has high concentrations of nearby fast food alternatives. This phemonemon is call the Food Balance Effect." (The Food Balance Effect is a term and body of work that we develoepd).

    "The costs associated with the Food Desert and Food Balance Effect will be borne directly by communities and their residents as it relates to the quality and length of life, and indirectly by the health care industry, by employers, by government agencies and by others who take on the burden of pre-death treatments."

    "In 1923, long before the rise of McDonald's golden arches, an advertisement for beef made this proclamation in the Bridgeport Telegraph: 'Ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat' The phrase 'you are what you eat'actually dates back to the 17th Centyury. Over time, science has repeatedly demonstrated that nutritional intake directly affects health outcomes. That we are what we eat is a medical fact."

    We hope these clarifications are helpful.

  3. Maria, thank you for the information to our blog. It is always refreshing to know that there are other concerned citizens through out the country who want to help with the food desert dilemma. I was wondering if you would comment on the history and ongoing problem that creates the food desert scenario?
    I am thinking that it may be land use and taxes that cause food stores to stay away from areas that are industrial usage only. The possibility of not making a WHOLE LOT of money comes to mind to. Thanks, will dillon