Saturday, August 1, 2009

Solutions to Food Deserts

Deserted: How to Solve the Crisis of Poor Access to Healthy Food is an excellent video of experts explaining the origin of food deserts in the flight of citizens from inner city living to suburbia around world war two, resulting in big grocery stores following suit. The panelists explain how access to quality food in inner cities has evolved to the present day, and discuss solutions at the end of the video.
The panelists are Duane Perry, founder of Philadelphia-based The Food Trust, Theresa Hastert, Senior Research Associate for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Amanda Shaffer, Director of Communications for the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. They discuss why there are so many fast food restaurants, why they are successful, and how to bring quality food back into inner city food deserts. The focus is on smaller markets, due to the reluctance of the large supermarkets to enter inner city communities; the panelists hint on causes as to why large grocers do not want to conduct business in inner cities; including perhaps ignorance of ethnicities, and how to service/market to them, as well as a frank desire to cater to only middle to upper class populations.
They refer to research which shows obesity and diabetes, as well as other diet related disease do not necessarily have their foundations in poverty, but in proximity to fast food restaurants, and lack of access to grocery stores; even high income areas and communities suffered a higher rate of diet related diseases if the proximity of fast food was closer than a grocery store. Research also revealed that if a grocery store moves to a food desert area, then people do change their habits. Fast food is a matter of convenience; when one has a few children, works all day and it’s time to eat, it is much easier to succumb to the convenience of fast food when a grocery store is not near.

Solutions offered in this video include:

-Citywide ordinance/policy advocating community benefits via agreements with supermarkets.
-Direct produce from farm to consumer via Farmer’s markets at hospitals, community gardens, and employers offering fresh food from local farmers once a week.
-Reforming School Food—provide and educate children on nutrition—who in turn educate their parents.
-Identify smaller stores that can be improved, and improve quality of offerings.
-Fast food restaurants provide nutrition information in hopes of fueling consumer demand.
-Statewide level policy development. Position issue around more than social justice issues; stress levity of children/children’s health and nutrition and health long term, for they are the vulnerable constituents.

To watch the video, go here:

-Marisha Wadsworth

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