Most people would think that food deserts are actually deserts served after the main course especially when it is related to food deserts and obesity. In truth, food deserts are not related to deserts in any ways. In fact, food deserts are geographic areas where access to healthy foods is very limited. Why are food deserts a problem?
Food desert residents do have access to foods, the unhealthy foods. This is why food deserts and obesity rates are related. USDA Food deserts and obesity statistics say that nearly half of these food deserts are low-income, impoverished areas. The question is then, how to reduce obesity risk in food deserts?
How to Reduce the Risk of Obesity in Food Desert Areas
Effects of food deserts? Healthy eating and healthy foods are considered expensive for many people especially those who live in food desert areas. Because of the lack of supermarkets and food stores that provide inexpensive, whole healthy foods such as brown rice, canned Tuna, Greek yoghurt, and frozen or freshly bagged vegetables, residents in food deserts are left with two unfortunate food store choices: small convenience stores and fast food joints. Neither of these places provides healthy food let alone the inexpensive healthy food.
Small Convenience stores generally sell processed foods, sugary junk foods, and fat-laden foods. All of these foods are major contributors to some nations’ obesity epidemic including big country like the USA. Fast food joints and restaurants serve high-calorie as well as high-fat foods. These two types of foods also serve as the major contributors to nations’ obesity epidemic. Provided with easy access to obesity-epidemic-causing foods, residents in food deserts suffer greater risk of obesity.
What are the solutions? Access to good, healthy food is the first step. Supermarkets are obviously not the only place that can provide this service. Farmers’ markets, community food initiatives, and neighborhood convenience stores can also do the work. Convenience stores can provide healthy, affordable food like the ones mentioned above. Healthy food inputs must be sold regularly as well. So by giving the right foods easy access, hopefully the risk of obesity in food desert residents will decrease.
Unfortunately, providing access to healthy food does not guarantee behavioral change of the residents. So, since supermarkets on their own will not be successful in changing the eating habits of the residents of food deserts, what else can be done? Well, Governments have to take it even further by not only educating the residents about healthy food choices, but also providing incentives or subsidies to buy healthy foods; this can be done by reducing taxes.
In conclusion, connection between food deserts and obesity are greatly correlated. Food desert areas tend to have a very limited access to healthy and affordable foods for the residents. Food stores in these areas usually provide sugary, fatty, junk foods with an easier access. This becomes the main reason of higher obesity risk in food deserts. Solutions include providing easy access to healthy, affordable foods through neighborhood convenience stores or grocery stores as well as governments’ efforts to educate and reduce taxes for the residents.