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The Harsh Reality of Food Deserts in America

One of the key components of someone’s risk of poverty is their location. In regards to many aspects of life, location is everything, especially when it comes to the accessibility to food resources. In the United States, many citizens face the risk of going hungry because of their location within a food desert.  A food desert is essentially an area in which someone does not have access to a food source, such as a supermarket, nearby. The definition of food deserts differs, though, based upon whether one lives in an

The definition of food deserts differs, though, based upon whether one lives in an urban or a rural setting. In fact, according to a Newsweek article published in 2014, “[I]n urban areas, the U.S Department of Agriculture considers a food desert an area with no ready access to a store with fresh and nutritious food options within one mile. In rural America, a food desert is defined as 10 miles or more from the nearest market.” Unfortunately, food deserts are not few and far between, “it’s estimated there are more than 23 million people, more than half of them low-income, living in food deserts.”

A food desert does not simply refer to one’s proximity to a supermarket but one’s access to a food pantry or food-sharing program, as well. Food pantries directly provide food to those in need and survive on donations to a food bank. Continuing the theme of location, one’s access to or standard of food pantry differs based upon their location.

Funding for food pantries typically comes from three sources: local, state and federal; however, according to research in The Journal of Family Social Work, “population density affects how much funding goes toward food pantries. Because rural areas have a lower population density and smaller numbers using the pantries, funding for food programs is also less than in urban areas.” What this means is that those living in a rural area are at a disadvantage as they are not only typically further from food pantries, but they have less available produce and nutritious food to choose from. If a family is unable to access both a grocery store and a food pantry, their risk of food insecurity increases considerably.

In order to eradicate these food-barren areas, there needs to be a greater quantity of food shelters and markets so that people do not have to travel great distances in order to purchase simple household food staples such as bread and cereal. Unfortunately, the only way to expand the number of food resource centers in this country, be it a food market that accepts SNAP, a food bank or a food pantry, the government will have to fund federal food-aid, rather than cut spending.

If the 2017 House budget plan is approved, spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would be cut by more than $150 billion —  over 20 percent — over the next ten yearsA cut of that degree would negatively impact millions of Americans and lead them to fall deeper into the depths of food insecurity. SNAP would not be the only program to take a hard hit from budget cuts, programs such as  Meals on Wheels, and Medicaid  would be affected as well. Defunding these programs would almost certainly lead to an increase in food insecurity.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 Americans face food insecurity, 13 million of which are children. Despite our status as a global superpower, the United States has some serious work to do in regards to fighting hunger and ensuring food access for all.

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Categories: Hunger & Homelessness
Tagged with: Food Deserts