by Rachael McCollum
A desert is barren and lacking in life. We always think of sandy deserts first when the topic
comes up. But many other places can be deserts too. There are neighborhoods without a hint of
sand that can be called deserts. These places are called “food deserts” and they’re called this
because you can’t get food within them. If a large area has no grocery stores for a wide radius,
it is a food desert. The people living in these kinds of deserts struggle to feed themselves just
like people in sandy deserts.
Food deserts are hardest on poor people, particularly the homeless. When one has to drive very
far to reach healthy food, it becomes a huge cost, not only in grocery money, but in time and
gas money too. This cost can become too much for poorer people, already struggling to make
ends meet, so they end up buying cheaper food, or fast food to make up for it.
This leads to its own problems. When someone lives on a diet of cheap food, it’s easy to
become unhealthy. This is a well-known fact. It’s the reason we buy from grocery stores and
make our own food, rather than allow someone else to cook it for us at a cheap restaurant.
These unhealthy habits are unavoidable for people in food deserts who have low incomes.
Longer term, these habits lead to poor health, which means visits to the doctor, and special
diets, and exercise, all of which have their own costs, in either money or time.
A person with low income also cannot afford to move into a better area with more access to
food, because these areas tend to have a higher cost of living than food deserts.
Food deserts can exist in both rural and urban areas. It has been estimated that 20% of rural
areas across the United States are food deserts, leaving low income people in those areas
unable to provide for themselves and their families properly.
Additionally, weather can affect these food deserts as well. In years when fruit and vegetable
production is low because the weather was poor, there is less of this kind of food to go around.
Even if people can get to a grocery store, there is little guarantee that good, healthy food will be
Therefore, people need to advocate for better access to food in low income areas. It’s a health
crisis and a human crisis. It’s a health crisis because poor health and inability to fight infections
can lead to a spread of diseases among the population. It’s a human crisis because these
people are struggling to keep things together in this situation.
Long commutes to get food, if they even can afford to put in the time and gas money, mean less
time to spend with family or improving skills or even just having fun. When people can’t do these
things, they become defeated and sad. When people can’t improve their skills, they have less of
a chance of moving forward in the workplace and earning a chance to move to a more plentiful
Food deserts are a tragic failure of city planning, and they need to be fixed.