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

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